Sunday, September 6, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: A Damsel in Distress by P.G. Wodehouse

If I don’t pick up the pace pretty drastically, I’m not going to complete the Back-to-the-Classics challenge. I usually squeak in just under the deadline but I fear I’m going to fail this year.

Hoping to ward off failure, I went for an easy one, the humorous classic: something by P.G. Wodehouse. I was browsing at a used bookstore and saw a couple of options. I’ve never read any of his work, so found jumping into a "Jeeves" story to be a bit intimidating. What if I started in the middle of the series? I can’t do that! So when I saw the novel A Damsel in Distress, I bought it.

This is an entertaining romp, a romantic farce.

Set primarily in Hampshire, at Belpher Castle, there are a gaggle of young people in the throes of not-yet requited love and thwarted romance. Lady Maud, daughter of the Earl (Lord Marshmoreton) is more or less confined to the castle because she has fallen in love with an American (met in Wales nearly a year before.) Her aunt, Lady Caroline, is determined to keep the two apart, partly because the match would be unsuitable and partly because she thinks Maud is much better suited to wed her stepson, Reggie Byng. Reggie and Maud are great pals, but determinedly not in love with one another. Reggie is in love with Lord Marshmoreton’s secretary, Alice. Unfortunately, the generally garrulous, lunk-headed and adorable Reggie is tongue-tied around Alice. Lady Caroline’s accomplice in assuring Maud’s misery is Maud’s brother, Percy. He’s a stiff snob with nothing to recommend him. Finally, there is George Bevan, a wildly successful American composer of popular musicals, in London for the opening of his latest play. He and Maud meet cute and he’s hopelessly smitten.

A series of misadventures, mistaken identities, and some upstairs-downstairs intriguing follows. It’s funny, charming, and a quick read with the requisite happy ending all around.