The hideous Walsingford Hall is home to an odd assortment of coves…The vile premises belong to Sir Buckstone, who is in a little financial difficulty. So for a little monetary help he puts a roof over the heads of people like (among others) Tubby Vanringham, the adoring slave of cold-hearted Miss Whittaker. His brother Joe has fallen head over heels for Sir Buck’s daughter, Jane. She, however, only has eyes for Adrian Peake, who has already formed a liaison with the terrifying - but superbly wealthy - Princess Dwornitzchek. Is there no end to the confusion?
Public Domain (P)2012 AudioGO
Regular readers/listeners of the fiction of P.G. Wodehouse will recognize immediately that 'Summer Moonshine' is populated with all the familiar characters and situations that make his fiction so comfortably predictable. One may cavil that--as one feasts more and more heavily on the banquet of his stories and novels--the formula begins to feel, well, formulaic, but the Master's light touch and brilliantly epigrammatic prose style keep the atmosphere so frothy that it seems churlish to mention that one is once again reading the tale of Young Love torn Asunder by an imperious Aunt, and the dizzying ballet of secondary characters whose fortunes become entwined with those of the principal hero and heroine. Indeed, it is sometimes unclear that there IS a principal hero and heroine--often we are served up an undifferentiated pile of men and women all of whom find the path of love blocked by obstacles which must be overcome. Wodehouse's solutions for extricating the hapless lovers from 'the Stew' run the gamut from the sublime to the ridiculous, but I have, until now, always consumed the stories at a gulp--loving the structure, the language and the humor of the tales.
I say "until now", because--for the first time--"Summer Moonshine" has fallen far short of the mark. Whereas most of the Wodehouse stories have a guardian angel of some sort--Gallahad Threepwood, Jeeves, Lord Ickenham--to guide events and produce, when needed, the deus ex-machina necessary to tie things up nicely, "Moonshine" simply gives us an English country house full of thwarted and mis-matched lovers, and leaves them to their own devices. Waiting as they blunder around, stumbling over their own faulty assumptions and mis-understandings becomes tedious. Moreover, the book is populated with a singularly unpleasant cast of antagonists. While no-one would claim that Alaric, the Duke of Dunstable is a Good Guy, he is such a buffoon that his evil plots do not rankle. Adrian Peake and the Princess Dwarnitzchek, however, are so thoroughly unpleasant that reading of their exploits brought me no pleasure. It would not surprise me to learn that this story--like the play written by one of the characters--is a malicious roman a clef, written by Wodehouse to settle a personal vendetta against a real-life Peake/Dwarnitzchek duo.
If, like me, you are reaching the point where there aren't too many un-read Wodehouse books, then purchase "Summer Moonshine" by all means. Second-rate Wodehouse is still far better than no Wodehouse at all. If, on the other hand, you are relatively new to the Wodehouse canon, I urge you to try something else--any of the 'Jeeves', 'Blandings', 'Mulliner' or 'Ukridge' books will bring you hours of pure pleasure. Save 'Summer Moonshine" for later.
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