Blandings Castle, by P.G. Wodehouse

P.G. Wodehouse's short story collection Blandings Castle is divided between six stories set at Blandings, the country estate of the ninth Earl of Elmsworth, one story about Bertie Wooster inamorata Bobbie Wickham, and five stories about the Mulliners of Hollywood. The Mulliner and Wickham stories have a little bite to them, but the Blandings section represents Wodehouse at his most shamelessly soothing—stories with not just happy endings, but happy beginnings and middles, too.

The main character of the Blandings series is Lord Elmsworth, a well-meaning but dim-witted peer mostly interested in winning prizes at local agricultural fairs. (Will his beloved pig, Empress of Blandings, win first prize at the 87th annual Shropshire Agricultural Show? And what will the loss of his head gardener, Angus McAllister, mean for his very promising pumpkin?) Unfortunately for Lord Elmsworth, other concerns occasionally force themselves upon his notice, usually via his strong-willed sister Lady Constance, or his problematic son Freddie, but things always magically work out in the end, and generally without any effort on his part.

The Lord Elmsworth stories, while enjoyable, avoid even the mild second-hand embarrassment of the Jeeves and Wooster stories, which makes them a little too fluffy and sweet to be memorable, and the Bobbie Wickham story works out like all the Bobbie Wickham stories before it, so if you've already read one... well, you've essentially read this one, too. The Mulliners of Hollywood section is more in keeping with Wodehouse's snarkier work, which I much prefer. Check out this section from “The Juice of an Orange”, in which young Wilmot Mulliner (previously a man blessed with the sunniest of temperaments) is feeling the effects of a crash diet consisting only of orange juice:
“...Wilmot Mulliner was sitting in the commissary, glowering sullenly at the glass which had contained his midday meal. He had fallen into a reverie, and was musing on some of the characters in History whom he most admired... Genghis Khan.... Jack the Ripper... Attila the Hun...

There was a chap, he was thinking. That Attila. Used to go about taking out people's eyeballs and piling them in neat heaps. The ideal way, felt Wilmot, of getting through the long afternoon. He was sorry Attila is no longer with us. He thought the man would have made a nice friend.”
In addition to being a glorious bit of internal dialogue, that is exactly how I would feel after four days of nothing but orange juice, and therefore this section spoke to my very soul.
Posted by: Julianka


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