A Damsel in Distress
Lady Maud, the spirited young daughter of the Earl of Marshmoreton, is confined to her home, Belpher Castle in Hampshire, under aunt's orders because of an unfortunate infatuation. Enter our hero, George Bevan, an American who writes songs for musicals and is so smitten with Maud that he descends on Hampshire's rolling acres to see off his rival and claim her heart. Meanwhile, in the great Wodehousian tradition, the Earl of Marshmoreton just wants a quiet life pottering in his garden, supported by his portly butler Keggs and free from the demands of his bossy sister and his silly-ass son.
Reviewed on 7th March 2012
A Damsel in Distress is what is fast (after only reading three books) becoming standard for my reading of Wodehouse. It's a comic romance in which nobody quite knows who everyone else is, nor who is in love with whom. Maud is in love with an American, but her aristocratic family, who think it's a different American, who in turn happens to love Maud, don't approve.
It's witty, it's light and it's entertaining, and yet I felt that there was something slightly lacking - it didn't quite live up to 'Picadilly Jim', but perhaps it's just unfortunate that the last Wodehouse I read was one of the best? The wit was not quite as sharp, the characters somewhat too familiar, and certain elements of the plot all too quick and convenient.
Despite that, it still has to be praised. Wodehouse's way with words shines through, and he is one of the only authors who manages to get away with breaking the fourth wall so blatantly without also breaking the flow of the narrative, instead making it feel like we're all in on one big joke. The humour survives the 90+ years since it was written incredibly well, and this seems to be because it was written with a tongue in the cheek that correctly translates into the modern era. I felt it was perhaps targeted a little at an American audience of the time, and that perhaps that gave it an attitude toward the England of the time more similar to our own is now.
An enjoyable and easy book to read. I'm glad that Wodehouse's works are so numerous and I have many more to keep me pleasantly entertained in future.