P.G. Wodehouse: A Life. Totally Unexpected Revelations
Peaceful English author or Nazi collaborator?
I know, that's not the sort of question I would ever have asked myself about P.G.Wodehouse if it wasn't for this fabulous biography.
Until I read this fascinating book I had no idea that Wodehouse, the creator of Jeeves and Wooster, was under suspicion for many years of collaborating with the Nazis during the Second World War. This was astonishing to me.
I'm very familiar with his books (as most of us are) but although the Nazi connection was an amazing revelation in this book, there are also many more.
I don't know about you but I always imagined Wodehouse to be a somewhat vague, scholarly chap - rather eccentric and somewhat like an old-time headmaster of an old and dusty English school.
I also read about his rather unusual, but devoted and long-lasting, marriage, the fact that he had an amazing career working on Broadway in his early years, plus the fact that he never quite forgave England for its accusations of collaboration - so much so that when he died, at the splendid age of ninety-three, he had actually been an American citizen for twenty years.
Yes, the man who wrote about the very epitome of 'Englishness' had lived in the States since shortly after the Second World War and had never returned to Britain.
When I first started reading this book, I had no idea about what I would learn. I imagined it to be peppered with quotes from his books (which it is, delightfully) and was expecting a rather jolly romp through his books and characters. I was looking forward to meeting Aunt Dahlia again, along with Gussie Fink-Nottle, Oofy Prosser and my favourite, Bingo Little. (Not to mention the fearful Honoria Glossop).
Yes, they were there, being quite charming as I expected, but I was astonished to learn more about the man who created them. Wodehouse was born when Queen Victoria was on the throne. As a young man he lived through Edwardian London and also the Jazz Age in America.
The book draws strongly from Wodehouse's own letters and from interviews with those who knew him.
At the outbreak of the Second World War, he was in his late fifties and living a peaceful life in Northern France. Remarkably for a man of that age, he was interred and spent a year in a prison camp before being taken to Berlin ... and that's when his troubles really started.
Buy the book
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I rather imagine that if you're like me, you won't be able to put it down. It's one of those books that keeps you on tenterhooks wondering what is going to happen next.
This is particularly the case when it comes to Wodehouse's somewhat strange (certainly unusual) situation in the Second World War.
It's also interesting to read about his somewhat unconventional marriage.
In all, this is an extremely fascinating book and it's so enlightening to read the life story of the writer who has given us such brilliant books.
I sometimes tend to forget that not everyone is familiar with Wodehouse's most popular creations, gentleman's gentleman Jeeves and the 'young master' Bertie Wooster.
If they are new to you, then you're in for a treat. Either watch the pair on DVD or read the original stories (I do both). I really recommend them most heartily.
If you're like me and love Wodehouse's writing, isn't it time you read more?
If you prefer to read rather than to watch, this is an absolute gem containing fourteen stories.If I have a problem with the TV series above it is that two stories were sometimes melded together to create a full episode. Whilst this is largely fine, reading Wodehouse is what the author intended.