Joey Cooley is a golden-curled child film star, the idol of American motherhood. Reginald, Third Earl of Havershot, is a boxing blue on a mission to save his wayward cousin from the fleshpots of Hollywood. Both are under anesthetic at the dentists when something strange happens - and their identities are swapped. Suddenly Joey can use his six-foot frame to get his own back on his Hollywood persecutors. But Reggie has to endure everything Joey had to put up with in the horrible life of a child star - including kidnapping.
Public Domain ©2002 The Trustees of the Wodehouse Estate (P)2012 AudioGO
Though there's plenty of "inhaling" at various bars, clubs and pubs throughout the Wodehouse canon, this is the only story I know of that involves an actual out-of-body (or, to be completely accurate, out-of-two-bodies) experience.
Due to this unique plot twist, it's also the only Wodehouse story I know of where we are treated to life from a child's perspective. Again, to be completely accurate it's life seen through the eyes of an adult who happens at the time to be inhabiting a child's body. Nevertheless, this adult has to deal with all the vicissitudes of youth--from bedtimes to bullies. Add the fact that this kid also happens to be a Hollywood child star, with all the dietary obligations that entails, and you can see that our hero has his hands full.
This was the first Wodehouse I ever read, given to me by my hall RA in college. Of course, like a chump I put off reading it for five or six years but when I did it came as rare and refreshing fruit.
Best line: When a temperance reformer hauls up her slacks about the "lake of alcohol" in America, the hero's cousin, a confirmed inebriate, lights up: "You mean...we can just go there and lap?"
Best situation: Confronted by a ten year old boy in ringlets and a flat Ohio accent who claims to be related to him by ties of blood, this cousin runs the other way--either to the nearest bar or temple of temperance. In a town built on illusions, it's hard to convince someone that something genuinely amazing has happened.
Meanwhile, everyone--and I mean everyone, from cops to kidnappers--is angling for a part in the next celluloid epic.
My only squawk is the way man and boy return to their own bodies--disappointing after the completely plausible (or at least plausible-for-Wodehouse-in-Hollywood) way they got switched in the first place. Nevertheless, a delightful romp.
Why? It contains all the Elements essential to a good PGW tale, BUT he threw in the impossible scenario. While all the others are a stretch of the imagination, Laughing Gas's 4th or 5th Dimension switch is fantasy, yet PGW wove it so masterfully into a believable story, that even the ending was a smooth transition back to reality. My fav words? " the idol of American motherhood."
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