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chesilbeach

Shropshire - Summer Lightning by P. G. Wodehouse

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SHROPSHIRE
 
Summer Lightning by P. G. Wodehouse
 
Synopsis:
The Empress of Blandings, prize-winning pig and all-consuming passion of Clarence, Ninth Earl of Emsworth, has disappeared.
 
Blandings Castle is in uproar and there are suspects a-plenty - from Galahad Threepwood (who is writing memoirs so scandalous they will rock the aristocracy to its foundations) to the Efficient Baxter, chilling former secretary to Lord Emsworth. Even Beach the Butler seems deeply embroiled. And what of Sir Gregory Parsloe-Parsloe, Clarence's arch-rival, and his passion for prize-winning pigs?
 
With the castle full of deceptions and impostors, will Galahad's memoirs ever see the light of day? And will the Empress be returned...?
 
 
Other Shropshire books:
A Morbid Taste for Bones by Ellis Peters
Precious Bane by Mary Webb

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008-2014-Feb-13-SummerLightning_zps215c0

 

Summer Lightning by P G Wodehouse

 

The ‘blurb’

A classic Blandings novel from P.G. Wodehouse, the great comic writer of the 20th century. The first appearance in a novel of The Empress of Blandings - the prize-winning pig and all-consuming passion of Clarence, Ninth Earl of Emsworth - which has disappeared. Suspects within the Castle abound...Did the butler do it?  

 

There is so much going on in this novel that I’m finding it hard to review it!

 

Lord Emsworth’s nephew, Ronnie Fish, is in love with a chorus girl called Sue… but there is a problem.   Ronnie needs money, but Lord Emsworth looks after his trust fund and, after a disastrous joint venture with Hugo Carmody (who now happens to be the Earl’s secretary), there is little chance of him getting his hands on any cash.  Hugo also finds himself in love - with Emsworth’s niece, Millicent, a match that will surely be frowned on by Constance, Lord Emsworth’s domineering sister?   In the meantime, Emsworth’s brother Galahad is writing his memoirs - a fact that not everyone is happy about, and which some people will try to prevent publication of - and the Lord’s former secretary is back in the hope of reclaiming his post…

 

What ensues is a humorous account of class boundaries, private detectives, stolen pigs and misunderstandings told in P G Wodehouse’s inimitable wit and style as all the stories and sub-plots come together to show that pig stealing, like the course of true love, never did run smooth!

 

As the majority of the characters in this book are upper-class, it doesn’t really give a feel for the county.  I have read one book by Wodehouse before - Carry on Jeeves.  I’m not sure I’ll read any more of this series (I think this is book 4 – I’m not sure why we didn’t choose book 1?), although with 15 out of 15 reviews on Amazon giving it five stars I must be missing something.  Don’t get me wrong – it wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy it - I just wasn’t a 5* book for me.   :)

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Although I love watching Jeeves and Wooster, I've only ever listened to one audio book by Wodehouse, so I'm really looking forward to reading this one for the challenge to see how it feels to read him on the page, and it'll be interesting to read one from a different series too.

 

Janet, if I remember rightly, the reason we chose this particular book was that it was said that it didn't matter if you hadn't read the one(s) preceding it, and it was probably the most well known of the series as I think it is often cited as the best.

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Yes .. I think it's his best known .. as far as Blandings is concerned anyway. Sorry you didn't enjoy it more Janet :( I've always enjoyed immersing myself in his literary worlds .. though more Jeeves & Wooster. I guess his silly sense of humour appeals :blush2:

Though I know the story from audio .. like Claire I've never read it so I'm looking forward to it.

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I enjoyed Carry on Jeeves.   I gave this one a 3/5 (I liked it) rating, so it wasn't all bad.  :)

 

Have either of you watched the BBC series of Blandings?

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I enjoyed Carry on Jeeves.   I gave this one a 3/5 (I liked it) rating, so it wasn't all bad.  :)

I like the Jeeves books much more .. the two main characters are just so brilliantly depicted. 

Have either of you watched the BBC series of Blandings?

Yes .. I hated it :blush2: I normally love Timothy Spall but didn't like him as Lord Emsworth .. seemed all wrong (and other characters too) .. something got lost I thought. Though I remember warming to it slightly towards the end so perhaps it was just a case of getting used to it. I haven't caught any of the second series yet.

Jeeves and Wooster with Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie is sublime though ... the first two series in particular.

What I do remember loving is Peter O'Toole as Lord Emsworth in the BBC dramatisation of 'Heavy Weather' .. the whole adaptation was excellent. Why don't they repeat things like that?

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We watched about 20 minutes of the very first episode last year, but didn't like it at all.   I didn't know about the O'Toole version.  There are so many great things on TV that they never repeat - and yet they repeat things that I think are rubbish! :giggle:

 

I totally agree about Fry and Laurie in Jeeves and Wooster.  We had it on a video box set, but we no longer have it (or a video player for that matter!).

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We watched about 20 minutes of the very first episode last year, but didn't like it at all.   I didn't know about the O'Toole version.  There are so many great things on TV that they never repeat - and yet they repeat things that I think are rubbish! :giggle:

.. and some of them they repeat to death. Perhaps they will put it on that new 'Drama' channel? Here's hoping (though it's not quite living up to its initial promise :blush2:)

I totally agree about Fry and Laurie in Jeeves and Wooster.  We had it on a video box set, but we no longer have it (or a video player for that matter!).

That's so annoying isn't it? I think I still have the Poldark series on video .. and some of the old Austen adaptations from the 80's etc .. yet no way to play them :( Not sure why I'm hanging onto them :blush2: Don't think video will be making a comeback like vinyl :D 

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Have either of you watched the BBC series of Blandings?

We watched about 15 minutes of the first episode before giving up.  

 

However, recently, we've been working out way through the entire Jeeves and Wooster series - I can't believe how perfect Fry and Laurie are for the roles.

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This is a classic English farce from Wodehouse with his typical august Aunts, eccentric Uncles, and one-up-manship among the older generations, with seemingly unsuitable entanglements among the younger generations hampered by misunderstanding and misplaced jealousy. Wodehouse gives us his own unique view of the upper classes of the period, and it's brilliantly narrated by John Wells, who made me chuckle out loud while listening, while utterly charming me with his characterisation. I could imagine this as one of those fabulous black and white films of the 50s with Terry Thomas and Ian Carmichael with their plummy accents and slick delivery.

I have read another Wodehouse (the first of the Jeeves and Wooster series), and while I might occasionally dip my toe in the water again, I don't think I'll be a regular reader. I like watching the Fry and Laurie adaptation of J&W, and I have enjoyed listening to Summer Lightning, but I'm not totally in love with Wodehouse, but he is an entertaining diversion now and again.

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Summer Lightning by PG Wodehouse ****

(Copied from my blog thread)

 

I used to consume PG Wodehouse books voraciously, particularly the Blandings series, but as I've got older, so my enthusiasm for them has waned. I regularly pick them up in bookshops and tell myself that they are worth at least a browse, but every time I've soon put them down again, unconvinced. So it was with a rather weighty heart that I picked up Summer Lightning as the Shropshire selection for the English Counties Challenge, in spite of the fact that, of those Wodehouse books I had read, this was the one that stuck as a favourite.

 

As I started to read, so my prejudices felt increasingly confirmed. The rather jolly style, almost so overdone it felt to be more pastiche than original, grated, the characters were caricatures and barely two dimensional, and the story sounded obvious. Oh dear!

 

But then, around the time that Sue travels down to Blandings, the plot started to gel, and the story started to entertain, developing the distinctive characteristics of a French farce. Characters who had felt wafer thin to that point suddenly seemed to have a point, and the whole package started to take off. And as the plot took off, Wodehouse continued to add further layers that took it ever higher, and the silly lunacy started to become funny, at least in a smiling, occasionally snorting, sort of way (!). By the end, the narrative was fairly rattling along full tilt, and I at last could see why people find Wodehous novels so entertaining.

 

The secret, I think, is in his plotting, which whilst initially unappealing, proved masterful. The characters are obvious to the point of stereotypes; several never did rise above the level of caricature, not least Lord Emsworth himself and his sister, but Wodehouse, starting from the all too obvious, weaves a knot of such Gorgonic complexity, that one is almost compelled to keep reading simply not to lose the thread - one setting down and both trail and pace would be lost in that instant.

 

So, Summer Lightning finally proved to be a thoroughly entertaining read. I can't say that I'm sufficiently convinced to want to spend much time re-exploring the Wodehouse list, there is a limit to how much of his characters I could stomach, but as a one off, and as an example of a certain style of writing, it certainly earned its place on the challenge list.

Edited by willoyd

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I had never read any Wodehouse before coming to this for the English Counties Challenge, nor have I watched any of the TV series, so this was entirely new for me. 

 

My early thoughts echoed Willoyd's, with lots of two dimensional characters feeling rather pointless as we swayed along. But then the plot takes off, and it doesn't seem to matter too much that the characters don't really develop, because the plot moves on at such a pace that is enough to keep the reader more than entertained. 

 

It's a certain style of novel, and I would imagine very much of its time, with caricatures of English upper class society and the resulting pitfalls for the younger generation, who will want to marry chorus girls and don't think that should impact on their inheritance! I'm not sure how much of this world still exists - I met a few boarding school types during my university years that were all expecting money at 21 and weren't taking job applications too seriously - but I imagine there is a lot less of this now. 

 

It reminded me of a soap opera in many ways, with characters all suffering from jealousy and crossed wires, while others employed private detectives and there were secrets galore! It's not a genre that I read, and it's not one I could stomach regularly, but it was a quick, entertaining read and I am glad to have dipped my toe into the Wodehouse waters. 

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