St. Louis, Missouri
Like Frederick Davidson, Jeremy Sinden gets the inner meaning of Wodehouse, extracting every drop of irony, sarcasm, mock-melodrama or just plain humor from every single line. His vocal portrayals are pitch-perfect; one gets a visual image of every character. His timing and pacing are impeccable. His diction is downright Harovian. Or Etonian, take your pick.
But then again, like any actor with a great script, Sinden has a lot to work with here. Full Moon is one of the highest spots in the Wodehouse bookshelf, a tumultuous romp through the spreading park lands and messuages of Blandings Castle, where:
Veronica Wedge ("the dumbest blonde in Shropshire") and Tipton Plimson ("rather a self-centered young man") find love
Colonel Egbert (complete with service revolver) and Lady Hermione Wedge (who looks like a cook) find a rich son-in-law
Bill Lister ("Blister" to his pals) finds he isn't cut out for the life artistic but is cut out for life with Prudence ("that little squirt") Garland
Lord Emsworth ("that woolen-headed peer") finds peace when everybody finally clears out of his house and leaves him with his prize porker, Empress of Blandings and his favorite reading, "On the Care of the Pig", by the great Augustus Whiffle
And the Hon. Galahad Threepwood finds he can make it all come about with an adroit mixture of lies, half-truths, tall tales, brisk staff work...and putting the Empress in Veronica's bedroom.
Don't worry, I haven't given anything away. In Wodehouse everyone--at least, all the deserving ones--get exactly what they want. The fun--and there is a great deal of fun here, served up with no unstinting hand--is seeing how they get it. Jeremy Sinden makes Wodehouse in your ear buds even better that Wodehouse off the printed page.
Wodehouse is most famous for two series, the Bertie and Jeeves novels and stories and what Wodehouse himself once referred to as “the Blandings Castle saga”.
Those who have explored the Master’s canon a little more deeply are familiar with two other delightful recurring characters: Ukridge (“that foe of the human race”) and the nephew-rich Mr. Mulliner. Below that strata are what might be identified as the “Valley Fields Chronicles”, a series of loosely-connected novels that revolve around that much-abused suburb, including such gems as Sam the Sudden (1925), Big Money (1931) and Ice in the Bedroom (1961).
Then there are all the, for lack of a better term, “one-offs”: novels with characters that never recur elsewhere, each set in a place that seldom if ever figures in other tales. Among these particular delicacies, Hot Water is one of the most delectable.
Admittedly, Gordon (“Oily” to his friends) Carlisle and Gerty (the tree on which the fruit of his larcenous life hangs) are recurring characters (most delightfully in Cocktail Time, 1958). But the main characters, Packy Franklyn, Lady Beatrice Bracken, Blair Eggleston, Senator Opal, his charming daughter Jane, the Gedges and the “Veek”, while all recognizable Wodehouse types, are all indigenous to this one story.
And what a tangled, funny, sweet, ridiculous story it is. There’s no point in summing up the plot because that would ruin the fun. Just imagine what a U.S. Senator, having been elected and re-elected for years on a sound “Dry” platform, would do if a woman—a woman who wants him to grant her husband a particular political favor—suddenly came into possession of his latest letter…to…his…bootlegger.
Jonathan Cecil is very near the top of his game on this one—not quite as good as his performances on Young Men in Spats or Uncle Fred in the Springtime, but very close. Occasionally he fails to pace himself, running out of breath on some of Wodehouse’s longer sentences but, while disappointing, this doesn’t get in the way of the fun. Every character comes through your earphones as a three-dimensional individual, and no nuance is missed.
Uncle Fred is one of Wodehouse's most engaging characters. Uncle Fred in the Springtime is one of his best books. And Jonathan Cecil's performance is does full justice to them both.
First, there is Cecil's ability to give each character a distinctive (and appropriate) vocal portrayal. Then there is his consistency in those portrayals. Add his ability to get every nuance out of every line and you have a full hand.
But wait, there's more. This is simply one of the best books in the Wodehouse canon. Start with a plot so tangled it may take a few listens to get it fixed in your mind (fear not; this is a story and a reading that gets better with every hearing). Add those various situations--from a Zulu warrior wedged into a phone booth to a spot of indoor artillery practice--that could only happen in the world according to Wodehouse. And to top it all off, there's Uncle Fred, his jumpy nephew Pongo and the lovely, lissom Polly Pott, crashing the exclusive gates of Blandings Castle posing as...
Well, you'll just have to listen.
Added goose: unlike some of the Wodehouse offered by Audible, this recording is crystal clear.