Stanley Featherstonehaugh Ukridge has hit upon a foolproof plan to get rich quick: he's starting a chicken farm. Dragging his adoring wife Millie and his long-suffering friend and novelist Jeremy Garnet with him to Dorset, he begins his enterprise. Complications ensue, involving the taciturn Hired Man and his bumptious dog, supercilious chickens, irascible professors, angry creditors, and divided lovers.
Public Domain ©2002 The Trustees of the Wodehouse Estate
This is a another great book by the funnest to read and funniest writer in English. On another day, I could go into the relative merits of this book to others, but there comes a point at which one is simply grateful for Wodehouse. This book strongly reinforces that sentiment in me. Perhaps there are sub-par Wodehouse books, and certainly I've enjoyed some more than others (this one is definitely towards the top of the list), but I can't be sure if isn't my own circumstances when I'm listening to the book that make the difference. Certainly, I will say this, there are no Wodehouse series that deserve to be given a miss. Blandings, Jeeves, Mulliner, Ukridge are all fantastic, each shedding light on the others. Wodehouse is a total phenomenon and must be approached as such.
Ukridge muttering under his breath and breaking plates just after they break into his country house, his mind motoring along at 150 km/h.
Cecil is a master teacher in how to read Wodehouse. Above all, he demonstrates the extent to which you have to let yourself really go to read Wodehouse, and especially with Ukridge, who is a loud boisterous obstreperous sort of fellow, doncha know.
There were points in this book, perhaps even more than in others, where I found myself running to sit down before I fell over laughing. This audiobook is DANGEROUSLY funny.
Stanley Featherstonehaugh Ukridge is among Wodehouse’s top-flight creations because we have all known people like him. They seem to go through life planning and scheming and failing and never really noticing. It’s an essential character trait in politics. But for you and me (the right sort of people, equipped with a conscience and an adequate supply of shame and guilt) it would make our everyday life into a waking nightmare. Knowing someone else who’s living the nightmare and seems to like it is almost as unnerving.
If, on the other hand, we’re lucky enough to watch someone like that from the safe distance of the printed page or, even better, have Jonathan Cecil read those pages to us—well, then everything is gas and gaiters. We might even start rooting for the blighter (it’s a lot easier when you’re not the one making him a long series of small loans). But most certainly we will laugh. Out loud. And often.
In the interest of full disclosure, I have to admit that I misjudged this book on the first listen. I first met S. F. Ukridge in the short story collection entitled, appropriately enough, “Ukridge”. “Love” predates it by three years, and presents a slightly watered-down version of our long-suffering hero. Or at least I thought so.
My second listen showed me that Ukridge only seems diminished because in this story he has to share more of the stage with his best friend, our narrator. And, besides the vicissitudes of starting a chicken farm from scratch (no pun intended), we also follow our narrator as he woos the girl with whom he came down on the train. Finally, unlike the series of short stories in “Ukridge” that present us with a series of hare-brained schemes (managing a prize fighter, starting a dog college, bilking newspapers of prize money, etc.), “Love” centers on one gigantic hare-brained scheme. All this, I think, gives Ukridge less scope to display his particular brand of dogged perseverance, monumental confidence and breathtaking lack of scruple.
But that said, my first impression was all wrong. Taken on its own merits, “Love Among the Chickens” is a genuine laugh riot. Any author who can describe the moral disposition of a hen and make you laugh is worth a listen or two. Or even three.
As when we watch the running of the bulls at Pamplona or see someone going over Niagara Falls in a barrel, the delight here is in the spectacle of Ukridge doing the exact opposite of what any sane, rational person would do—and believing sincerely, with all his heart, that the scheme is copper-bottomed. Finding ourselves without a nickel, you or I would simply Google the want ads and find a job. But getting up every morning, working and saving a is just too staid a course for Ukridge’s gallant spirit. He always has to aim for the Napoleonic gesture, the Rockefelleresque big coup. And so his failures are Napoleonic, too. The only difference is, Napoleon knew when he was beaten. So the stories—and our delight—continue.
A note might be in order about Ukridge’s domestic arrangements. In “Love” he starts out married. Three years later “Ukridge” ends with him married. In stories that appear in later collections, he is a bachelor. Don’t try to figure it out. Enjoy it. It’s just another example of Wodehouse never letting what he’d written last week get in the way of his latest inspiration.
hilarious, memorable, silly
Stanley Featherstonehaugh Ukridge. A lot of the humor comes from SFU being such an unconventional rascal, ne'er do well.
He capably voiced different characters. Lively reading with dramatic/comedic emphasis. Cecil's performance is my favorite, I was so glad when audible added to the store. Before I had the CD audiobook and couldn't enjoy it on my iPod.
The truths in the letter from Aunt Elizabeth. It always makes me feel a bit sympathetic towards Millie Ukridge. I mean, Ukridge's rascally behavior is comical, but gosh there is something tragic in Millie being married to such a flake.
Wodehouse had a way with words, and Love Among the Chickens is one of his stories that is a great pick-me-up when you're in need of a laugh. It stands up to repeat listening too. Just try it old horse.
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