Very Good, Jeeves | Book Review

Very Good, Jeeves

P.G. Wodehouse

Penguin: Random House

ISBN: 9780099513728

£8.99

Review

There has been a glut of non-fiction in my reading diet recently. Doctoral literature has been eating up a lot of my at-home reading time, whilst I am finding that the commute to work lends itself more to non-fiction (history mostly) – my tendency to let my thoughts wander whilst driving means that I’m better able to plug back into a narrative I’m already familiar with. In an attempt to remedy this imbalance, I read my first Wodehouse, an author regularly cited as a bona fide genius by the likes of Stephen Fry and Kate Mosse. Wodehouse was prolific in later life, writing more than ninety books, two-hundred short stories, and forty plays. He is perhaps best known for his Wooster and Jeeves series of novels and short stories chronicling the chaotic, bumbling socialite Wooster and his long-suffering, brilliant manservant. I chose to start with ‘Very Good, Jeeves’, a collection of stories about the duo.

The wit of Wodehouse is apparent from the first page; I’m struggling to think of another author with such an ear for dialogue. The conversations are clipped, wonderfully staged, and laugh-out-loud funny. Wodehouse is able to amuse, progress narrative, and illustrate character in so few words that I was genuinely amazed at his technique. The dialogue is also the primary vehicle for the lifeblood of the stories and, I am assuming, the series – the relationship between Bertie Wooster and Jeeves. There is so much humour in what is said, and so much joy in what is left for the reader to discover unsaid within the repartee.

I usually look for what I think could be improved within a book. In this case it is probably character development – Wooster and Jeeves retain the same characteristics, motivations, and flaws throughout the eleven short stories that make up ‘Very Good, Jeeves’. This criticism would however be missing the central attraction of Wodehouse’s writing. This is storytelling to amuse, to titillate. It is the man telling a tale at the bar, the primary school teacher with children clustered at her feet. Wooster and Jeeves is writing with reading in mind, and Wodehouse is an author confident that his brilliance is enough to entertain. It is.

*Thanks for reading, folks. Find my other reviews below*

Michael Palin – Erebus: The History of a Ship

Hilary Mantel – The Mirror and the Light

Maggie O’Farrell – Hamnet

Raynor Winn – The Salt Path

Samantha Harvey – The Western Wind

Diarmaid MacCulloch – Thomas Cromwell: A Life

Peter Carey – A Long Way from Home

W.C. Ryan – A House of Ghosts

Val McDermid – A Place of Execution

Richard Cohen – How to Write Like Tolstoy

George Orwell – 1984

John Sampson – The Wind on the Heath

Michelle Paver – Wakenhyrst

Jess Smith – Way of the Wanderers

Zadie Smith – Feel Free

Max Hastings – Vietnam: An Epic Tragedy 1945-1975

Bernard MacLaverty – Grace Notes

Ernest Hemingway – In Our Time

Andrew Roberts – Napoleon the Great

Emily Bronte – Wuthering Heights

Margaret Atwood – The Handmaid’s Tale

Kamila Shamsi – Home Fire

Annie Proulx – Brokeback Mountain

Anthony Doerr – All the Light We Cannot See

Ellipsis: Three magazine

Harper Lee – To Kill a Mockingbird

Jon McGregor – Reservoir 13

Colson Whitehead – The Underground Railroad

Amor Towles – A Gentleman in Moscow


Matthew Richardson is a writer of short stories. His work has featured in Gold Dust magazine, Literally Stories, Close to the Bone, McStorytellers, Penny Shorts, Soft Cartel, Whatever Keeps the Lights On, Flashback Fiction, Cafelit, and Shooter magazine. He is a doctoral student at the University of Dundee, a lucky husband, and a proud father. He blogs at www.matthewjrichardson.com and tweets at https://twitter.com/mjrichardso0

13 thoughts on “Very Good, Jeeves | Book Review

  1. Spot on review, Matthew! I’ve read a few of the Jeeves and Wooster books over the years. They’re not great literature, but they’re not meant to be. They never fail to entertain me though, even better when picturing Steven Fry and Hugh Laurie from the wonderful TV series playing the characters. I’ve also read ‘Jeeves and the Wedding Bells’ by Sebastian Faulks which was a pretty good parody. Not a patch on the original though.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. I read Birdsong 10+ years ago. I don’t remember too much about it other than the horror of the trenches. I just found my yellowing copy along side the other two in the trilogy and Engleby. All well-thumbed.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I enjoyed your concise, down to earth review of these stories, which are among my favourites. I’ve read a little of PG Wodehouse’s work, heard more very well dramatised on the BBC – radio 4 mostly, a little of the TV series with Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie, who I think capture exactly the spirit and feel of that ephemeral world and the author’s writing.. For me Wodehouse’s writing is a refreshing and playful respite from the tangled issues of everyday reality, a pleasantly uncomplicated and stable world with an undercurrent of humour and compassion that often seems lacking in “the real world”. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

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