I love P. G. Wodehouse so, so much. I have never read a Wodehouse novel — and there are dozens upon dozens of those things — and not been enchanted. His use of language, his humour, his sense of place and time; he brings to life a wholly fictional, but wholly delightful, vision of upper class, moneyed life in the early half of the twentieth century, and it is uniformly delightful, and invariably hilarious.
But I had never read this first novel of his, a book written, apparently, for boys of a certain stamp, set in an English boarding school. In fact, though I vaguely knew that was how he had first begun his storied writing career, and I’d read Mike at Wrykyn and Mike and Psmith — both set in public schools, and the latter of which being one of my favourite Wodehouses — it had never occurred to me to search out these early works when I had so many other titles of his to find and devour.
But several years ago, I decided I wanted to read all of Wodehouse’s books in publication order, and so of course I immediately began to collect them, haunting vintage book shops and eBay and Etsy to collect the early titles I didn’t yet own. (Yes, I know about ebooks. But I wanted to own them. Sue me.) But I never read them, not — as is the usual story — because there was just so much else to read, but because I think I was scared. What if I disliked these early attempts by one of my literary idols? Could I cope with the disappointment?
I needn’t have worried.
True, there is a lot here that I had to figure out from context, the slang and assumed knowledge of the time being laid on pretty thick. But this tale of missing trophies from an unguarded school room, the descent of a detective to get to the bottom of the crime, and some stalwart fellows with motive and no alibi but too much honour to be guilty of such a crime, is very fun, occasionally very funny, and shows enough incipient genius that it is easy to see in this early Wodehouse the seeds of matchless wit that would come.
For Wodehouse completists, for sure, but also for those who enjoy school stories and tales of pre-War Britain in all its feudal glory–which, of course, we egalitarians are happy to see gone, but somehow still miss.
TBR DAY 213: The Pothunters by P. G. Wodehouse
GENRE: Humour, YA
TIME ON THE TBR: ~4 years.
PURCHASED FROM: eBay.