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.
Evelyn Waugh was about right when he said, “Mr. Wodehouse's idyllic world can never stale. He will continue to release future generations from captivity that may be more irksome than our own. He has made a world for us to live in and delight in.”
This classic from the Monarch or Royal of the Master—he apparently used both brands of typewriter in the course of a longish authorial career—has certainly released me more than once from dull hours and duller cares. In a bookshelf with more high spots than a can-can line, Code of the Woosters is one of the highest; a story that delights no matter how many times I listen to it—and I generally fit it in at least once a year, in the autumn, the season in which the story is set.
The tonic effect of Wodehouse is, I believe, heightened with repeated listening. The rhythm of his sentences and then the almost bulletproof good humor of his perspective, begin to seep into your system and you notice bits of his Drones Club jargon in your own speech. Rather than say you don’t want to see someone, you observe that you’d run a mile in tight shoes to avoid them. Instead of merely feeling relieved, you start singing like a relieved nightingale. Don’t fight it. It means the inoculation against Modern Times is taking effect and the cure is working.
I’m not going to say a word about the plot because with Woodhouse plot is everything and it’s my object here to give away nothing. He once said that, on average, he generated around 400 pages of notes to work out the plot of one of his books—a book that generally ran half that length. Let’s just say that I’ve always suspected the notes for this plot may have run a tad longer. It in complex, contorted and convoluted, all words which, in the world according to Wodehouse, are good things.
One of the peculiarities about audio books is that, if there are different recordings of a book, the version you first heard becomes THE version; no others will satisfy. This is especially so with a writer like Wodehouse, where every inflection makes a difference. Years ago I first listened to this version of this book on audiocassette. So the fact that I think Jonathan Cecil is at his very best on this one may be due merely to my early, Lorenzian imprinting. Nevertheless, there it is.
Buy it, listen to it—and repeat the dose as often as needed.
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.