P.G. Wodehouse‘s stories about Jeeves, the erudite and unflappable valet, and his young English master, Bertie Wooster, first started appearing in 1917, but they are still hilarious today. A few years ago, I listened to a couple of early story collections: The Inimitable Jeeves, narrated by Martin Jarvis, and Carry On, Jeeves, narrated by the late Jonathan Cecil. Each of the narrators was excellent as the voice of Bertie Wooster, the foppish, dimwitted, and conceited young bachelor who doesn’t realize just how often he relies on his imperturbable manservant not just to keep his wardrobe and the household in order, but also to keep him (Bertie) in the good graces of his rich aunts, out of the dreaded state of matrimony, and out of the farcical scrapes he’s always getting mixed up in due to his misreading of a situation.
Much Obliged, Jeeves purports to be a continuation of Bertie Wooster’s memoirs. I suppose Bertie’s oblivious, upper-class snobbery could be offensive to class-conscious listeners. But much of the humor stems from Bertie’ being so smugly self-centered that he doesn’t realize he could ever offend, except maybe unwittingly (and that would be highly unlikely, as he prides himself on his sensitivity.) Bertie relates the events of his life in such a way that we the readers understand that he’s completely clueless, while Bertie himself clearly remains clueless about being clueless.
I worried at first that a new narrator wouldn’t be able to fill the shoes of previous Wodehouse narrators (who also number among them the popular Simon Prebble) but Dinsdale Landen captured both Bertie’s exaggerated sense of entitlement and Jeeves’ stoic air of patience very well. I thought that he read a bit fast compared to other audiobook narrators, and I had to listen extra closely not to miss anything, but I got used to the fast pace. It seemed to fit the breezy, breathless nature of the Bertie’s memoir.
If you’re in the mood for something funny and frivolous, the Jeeves books are perfect. They are not educational or multicultural; there are no take-home messages, but, hey, they’re English classics, so you can feel virtuous about listening to them as you laugh.
Much Obliged, Jeeves refers frequently to events from earlier books but Bertie helpfully suggests “heaps of things” that the “old gang” (readers already familiar with the other characters mentioned in this book) can do while he catches new readers up on who the people he’s talking about are.
Much Obliged, Jeeves can be enjoyed on its own, but if you’d prefer to listen to the Totleigh Towers books in chronological order, here’s the list:
Code of the Woosters
The Mating Season
Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves
Much Obliged, Jeeves
Listen to an excerpt from Much Obliged, Jeeves here.
Disclosure: I received a free review copy of the audiobook Much Obliged, Jeeves from AudioGO, formerly known as BBC Audiobooks America.