Friday, 29 August 2014

Review: The Adventures of Sally

The Adventures of Sally
The Adventures of Sally by P.G. Wodehouse

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

An early Wodehouse, with several differences from the successful formula he later established.

Firstly, the main character is an American woman, rather than a British man. There is a British man who's an important character, and he's much the kind of not-too-bright but fundamentally decent Brit Wodehouse made a career of writing about, but the eponymous Sally is definitely the focus of the story.

Secondly, there's more seriousness and less comedy than in the books he's best remembered for. People are affected by financial difficulties and have to take soul-destroying jobs to recover. There are mentions of the Spanish flu, though nobody dies of it on stage. I don't regard this necessarily as a fault; it's done well, and the later Wodehouse books are notorious for the degree to which nothing in them really matters except to the characters involved.

What he hadn't quite perfected here, and what he did perfect later on, was making essentially incompetent characters enjoyable to read about. One way he achieved that effect was by making the incompetents very proactive. They would always be trying things to get out of their difficulties, even though they never worked. Ginger, the male lead, doesn't do this. Not only is he not very bright, he's passive and has to be chivvied (one would almost say nagged) into doing anything by Sally. Sally herself is not highly competent or unusually proactive either. She's clearly brighter than any of the men, yet she chooses to hand over her money to her brother to invest, knowing he's lost all of his own, rather than cutting out the middleman and investing directly.

The romantic direction of the book was always obvious, but I was never fully convinced by it, partly because I agreed with Ginger that he was "not much of a chap". On the whole, though, I enjoyed the book and saw in it frequent glimpses of the charm that Wodehouse later turned into his consistent style.

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