Book group for October - Aunts aren't gentlemen by PG Wodehouse

TukaiTukai Shipmate
This month's book is definitely in the category of light reading. PG Wodehouse remains one of the best comic writers in English, and his prose is masterly.

This particular book, Aunts aren't gentlemen, is available on every bookshop and publishers' list that I checked. Most public libraries have at least some of his works on the shelves, as publishers keep reprinting them - though I can't guarantee the stock at your local.

It is one of the Jeeves and Wooster series, featuring Bertie Wooster a 1920s man about town, and his manservant Jeeves, whose cleverness always gets Bertie out of whatever farcical scrape he has let himself into. Many other characters re-appear from other books, but this one can easily be read independently. Warning: allow a chapter or two for the farcical plot to warm up.

Comments

  • Oh! I love PG Wodehouse! Since I have a set of his entire works, I think I can probably find this right on the top shelf.
    :smile:
  • SarasaSarasa Shipmate
    I'm looking forward to reading this.
  • It's an interesting choice. If I remember correctly it's the last novel he completed before he died, so he probably wasn't at top form. I'll still enjoy rereading it, however.
  • TukaiTukai Shipmate
    I had the same concern, but can assure you that it's still and enjoyable read.
  • MarsupialMarsupial Shipmate
    I've never actually read any Wodehouse, so I'm going to see if I can get my hands on it at our local bookstore.
  • MiliMili Shipmate
    With lockdown continuing in Melbourne I still have plenty of reading time to join in and entertainment money to spend on books.
  • SarasaSarasa Shipmate
    I'm about 25% of the way in and enjoying it so far, even if it revisits several well known Wodehouse themes.
  • ClimacusClimacus Shipmate
    I can't seem to find this one, but thank you for making me think of getting a few Wodehouse this month. I'm struggling a bit with concentration currently, and I find his chapters or sections helpfully self-contained so I can read as I can.

    So thank you.
  • TukaiTukai Shipmate
    Climacus: later in the month, you can tell us about the Wodehouse book(s) you are reading; it will offer a point of comparison.
  • Climacus, shortly before dumping me, my first serious boyfriend lent me a Wodehouse book (I don't remember which one). I was hooked. Over the next several months I read every one I could get my hands on -- I wasn't able to concentrate on anything serious. They're wonderful when you need something light and fun.

    I just finished the book I've been reading, and plan to start re-reading "Aunts Aren't Gentlemen" this evening.
  • MiliMili Shipmate
    Did you keep the ex-boyfriend's book in revenge 🤣
  • Mili wrote: »
    Did you keep the ex-boyfriend's book in revenge 🤣
    No, I was nice and returned it to him. Then I headed for the library and started checking out PGW books.
    :smile:
  • ClimacusClimacus Shipmate
    Ha ha.
    And they are indeed wonderful to read, thank you, Pidwidgeon -- I read three stories from a golfing compilation, The Clicking of Cuthbert, yesterday. My parents remain keen golfers and many a day was it where I was dragged around the course, so the obsessives in the stories are relatable. :wink: Now I think of it, may get his golfing compilations for them for a Christmas gift.

    Tukai -- I may well do. Thank you.
  • CaissaCaissa Shipmate
    Finished it on the weekend. A very quick, silly read.
  • We had all the Wodehouse in my library except this one, but managed to request it from another branch. Just ready to start.
  • TukaiTukai Shipmate
    As I have a swag of w**k on next week, I'm posting a few questions as discussion starters a little earlier than usual in the month. As usual, feel free to ignore these and/or add your own questions.

    Q1. Did you find the book funny?
    - If so, slow-grin funny or laugh-out-loud funny? Which were the best bits?
    - If not, where did it misfire? Prose style? plot? General absurdity of his whole 1920s ‘aristocratic’ world? or what?

    Q2. Was this the first book you have read by Wodehouse?
    - If so, did it leave you ‘hooked’ and looking for another? Why?
    - If you’ve read others before, how did this one (which was the last of about his 90 or so books!) measure up to the others? Which of his books or stories is your favourite and why?

    Q3. Most (maybe all?) of Wodehouse books are set in a ‘timeless’ world, which is more or less that of the leisured class of 1920s England (similar to that of the Great Gatsby in the USA but less mercenary). But this book was written in 1974, so a few anachronisms may have crept in. Did you notice any such? Did they worry you?

    Q4. Bertie has no parents that he can remember , or are even mentioned as far as I know, but a tribe of Aunts who hatch schemes involving him. Did you ever have such relations that you might want to tell us about?
  • Tukai wrote: »
    As I have a swag of w**k on next week, I'm posting a few questions as discussion starters a little earlier than usual in the month. As usual, feel free to ignore these and/or add your own questions.

    Q1. Did you find the book funny?
    - If so, slow-grin funny or laugh-out-loud funny? Which were the best bits?
    - If not, where did it misfire? Prose style? plot? General absurdity of his whole 1920s ‘aristocratic’ world? or what?

    I enjoyed the book, and found it funny, but usually more in a slow grin kind of way. He has a way with words and there are rarely any words wasted.
    Q2. Was this the first book you have read by Wodehouse?
    - If so, did it leave you ‘hooked’ and looking for another? Why?

    This was my first Wodehouse book. I enjoyed it, and I'd probably happily pick up another Wodehouse if I was looking for some light reading. But it didn't leave me craving more. I think just a little too light and fluffy.



  • This was a Wodehouse I had not read before, though I have read many. In fact I could wish I had not read so many when I started this - I have yet to finish, because it is not Wodehouse at his finest. If you have read other Wooster/Jeeves books then this comes over as very much the mixture as before, but with less in it to grab you.

    My favourite of Wodehouse's novels as the two starring Monty Bodkin - "The Luck of the Bodkins" and "Peals, girls and Monty Bodkin". And I think Wodehouse was wise not to write too much about this one character. But some of the Blandings short stories are also laugh-out-loud funny.

    By this time in the oeuvre, Wodehouse' world is becoming stale, I think. The author himself had not lived in England for many years and you even find Americanisms creeping into Wooster's narrative. While you could never move Bertie and Jeeves on from their world of the twenties/early thirties, for me by this time their world is more of a pastiche than a celebration.

    As I say, I have not yet finished the book. I think Bertie's aunts are some of Wodehouse's best inventions and I am currently waiting to see if Jeeves' aunt returns from Liverpool to make an appearance. I can think of a way in which she might redeem the book - so I will carry on with it, to see if this does indeed happen!
  • EirenistEirenist Shipmate
    In their way, the works of Wodehouse are as much fantasy fiction as those of Terry Pratchett; if anything, Pratchett's 'Discword stories are more serious. Legend has it that the German Abwehr took them as serious portrayals of life in England, and used them as training manuals for the agents they tried to infiltrate into wartime Britain, with predictable results.
  • SarasaSarasa Shipmate
    I enjoyed the book and there were bits that made me smile, the opening with Bertie and the spots for instance, but I didn't think it was one of his best. The main thing that got me was the initialising of a lot of words. As a stylistic device it works once or twice, too many times and it felt like Wodehouse couldn't quite remember the word he wanted and his editor didn't pick him up on it and supply it.
    The world is pretty timeless and though I think I spotted at least one anachronism, I can't remember what it was so it can't have been that important. I wonder if there were ever young men quite like Bertie Wooster. The type seems to appear in the 1890s and had melted away by the second world war. Lord Peter Wimsey on the outside looks like he belongs to the drones club, but of course there is far more going on in his head than in Bertie's.
    I've read a few Wodehouse's and I'm sure I'll read more, I like them and loved the adaptations with Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry years ago. I recently saw one again and it has stood the test of time.
    Bertie's relations are great, and I think his father gets a mention in this book as Aunt Dahlia is his sister, but we never find out exactly where Bertie gets his money from. If he had ever grown up I wonder if he would have married and which of the many young women he got tangled up with would have suited him.
  • Sarasa wrote: »
    I wonder if there were ever young men quite like Bertie Wooster. The type seems to appear in the 1890s and had melted away by the second world war. Lord Peter Wimsey on the outside looks like he belongs to the drones club, but of course there is far more going on in his head than in Bertie's.

    Based purely on reading Wodehouse and Sayers, I see Wimsey as rather older than Wooster: the Bellona Club is full of men damaged by fighting the First World War, while their younger brothers and cousins who were too young to serve fool around at the Drones.

    But both worlds assume a class of young(ish in Wimsey's case) men with enough time and money to belong to clubs - sometimes as a pied a terre in London instead of a home, but as well as a home for both Wimsey and Wooster.

  • @Sarasa I think that the joke in referring to the local poacher as Billy Graham is an anachronism, if we are to assume that Bertie’s world never reaches WW2 (as we must if he is still to be a young man, not a middle aged man about town).
  • There must be something about Wodehouse and cats, judging from the avatars on this thread...

    I'm going to give some earlier Wodehouse a try.
  • ClimacusClimacus Shipmate
    Eirenist wrote: »
    Legend has it that the German Abwehr took them as serious portrayals of life in England, and used them as training manuals for the agents they tried to infiltrate into wartime Britain, with predictable results.
    A wonderful legend. Thank you.

    While I couldn't source this book, I personally find Wodehouse' turn of phrase and his ability to exaggerate mannerisms and such a pure delight.

    I just finished reading The Clicking of Cuthbert, golfing short stories and his knowledge of the game*, and his ability to extend and exaggerate the rules and personalities, simply wondrous. I'm reading Bachelors anonymous, a story in which a men's group similar to AA keep people from marrying, but more with various characters. Whenever I am feeling low, W's prose and characters can raise a smile.


    * my parents play several times a week; I did not inherit their love of the game
  • MiliMili Shipmate
    My Dad is a golf nut too and plays every Saturday except during restrictions this year. He built a mini golf course in his backyard to compensate.

    Bachelors anonymous sounds like the original MGTOW (Men Going There Own Way), but hopefully a bit less toxic.
  • MiliMili Shipmate


    Q1. Did you find the book funny?
    - If so, slow-grin funny or laugh-out-loud funny? Which were the best bits?
    - If not, where did it misfire? Prose style? plot? General absurdity of his whole 1920s ‘aristocratic’ world? or what?


    It wasn't the style of comedy that makes me laugh, but it was mildly amusing. I felt like the book was a long build up to the final joke that reflected the title. I also liked the resolution relating to the cat and Jeeve's aunt. I don't think it misfired so much as it is just not the style of comedy I find really funny personally.


    Q2. Was this the first book you have read by Wodehouse?
    - If so, did it leave you ‘hooked’ and looking for another? Why?
    - If you’ve read others before, how did this one (which was the last of about his 90 or so books!) measure up to the others? Which of his books or stories is your favourite and why?


    This was the first Wodehouse book I have read. There is a Youtube channel called 'The Shows Must Go On' that played free musicals once a week during some of the lockdown and they had the musical 'By Jeeves' one week, but I only watched the start. I found Wooster rabbitting on tedious and didn't know what to expect having not read the books. The book was better, because I could quickly read any parts that dragged on a bit. I probably won't read any more books, but might check out clips from the T.V. series with Fry and Laurie as the actors are usually entertaining.

    Q3. Most (maybe all?) of Wodehouse books are set in a ‘timeless’ world, which is more or less that of the leisured class of 1920s England (similar to that of the Great Gatsby in the USA but less mercenary). But this book was written in 1974, so a few anachronisms may have crept in. Did you notice any such? Did they worry you?

    I think I noticed a couple of anachronisms, or at least events that didn't feel like contemporary books from the 1920s, but nothing I could specifically identify.

    Q4. Bertie has no parents that he can remember , or are even mentioned as far as I know, but a tribe of Aunts who hatch schemes involving him. Did you ever have such relations that you might want to tell us about?
    [/quote]


    I don't think I have any current relatives that would drag me into a scheme. If there is any scheming it is going on behind my back!

  • EirenistEirenist Shipmate
    Sarasa, it is Wooster not Wodehouse who abbreviates cliche phrases to initials, too eager to crack on with the narrative to write them out in full. This is a mannerism or affectation that recurs throughout the Jeeves books.
  • SarasaSarasa Shipmate
    @Eirenist , the initialisation of words is something I'm sure happens in other books, but here it seemed to happen so often to seem less of a stylistic device showing us an aspect of Wooster's character and more Wodehouse writing in a slapdash manner.
  • I enjoyed the book, and it made me smile. Having said that, it was thin compared to the Master at his prime. The plot was fairly straightforward; only two elements, the cat and the romance. Classic Wodehouse is almost impossible to summarise, as so much is going on, yet completely comprehensible while you're reading. Compare this with "The Code of the Woosters", which is possibly his best Bertie story. In my humble o, of course.
  • EirenistEirenist Shipmate
    Sarasa, I think you may be approaching the book a little too seriously. He is writing in the character of Wooster, the classic English Public (sc. private in the US) schoolboy who has not grown up. cf. Boris Johnson.

    You either like Wodehouse's books or you find them irritating.
  • Yes, the initial thing is just part of Wooster’s style. No differently in this book than in all the others. I agree with @Robert Armin that “The Code of the Woosters” is the best of that series.
  • ClimacusClimacus Shipmate
    Can't recall if Aunt's had this, but a few have a number of references to the Bible, which I suppose speaks to the level of Biblical literacy back then.

    The Gadarene swine and "God will smite thee, thou whited wall" featured, as did others, in the Bachelors Anonymous chapter I just read.
  • MiliMili Shipmate
    Wooster quotes quite a bit of scripture and often mentions the scripture prize he won at school for memorising verses in this book.
  • ClimacusClimacus Shipmate
    Thanks Mili.
  • Wodehouse was well read. Many of his novels will quote not only the Bible and Shakespeare, but half a dozen assorted poets. Bertie normally assumes they are all Jeeves' own work.
  • DafydDafyd Shipmate
    Bertie surprises Jeeves by producing a literary allusion is something of a running joke.
  • SarasaSarasa Shipmate
    I've read a lot of Wodehouse and this was the first time the initial thing irritated me, but no big deal.
    Thanks @Cathscats , the Billy Graham joke was one of the anachronisms I spotted, though I did wonder briefly if Graham had been big in the twenties. Isn't there one of the American stories centred round an evangelist?
    I did quite like the running joke about the scripture prize the Bertie won, therefore enabling to come out with various Bible quotes. I won the prix for religious studies every year in my primary school, but haven't noticed it being particularly useful in later life!
  • CaissaCaissa Shipmate
    The story you might be thinking of is Elmer Gantry.
  • BarnabasBarnabas Shipmate Posts: 25
    There is a Jeeves and Wooster story with a revivalist preacher as part of the resolution - The Aunt and the Sluggard
  • In that Billy Graham was born in 1918, I don’t think he was a big name in the 20s! He didn’t come to prominence till the late 40s.
  • SarasaSarasa Shipmate
    Thanks @Barnabas and @Cathscats , the story I'm thinking of is one of the ones set in New York, and I remember it mainly from the Jeeves and Wooster series with Fry and Laurie rather than the books so it might have been changed a bit for the small screen. I was also very hazy about how old Billy Graham was!
  • The Fry and Laurie series was a travesty. They deserve to be burned at the stake for that (although I like other stuff they've done).
  • Albert RossAlbert Ross Shipmate Posts: 2
    Sarasa wrote: »
    Thanks @Barnabas and @Cathscats , the story I'm thinking of is one of the ones set in New York, and I remember it mainly from the Jeeves and Wooster series with Fry and Laurie rather than the books so it might have been changed a bit for the small screen. I was also very hazy about how old Billy Graham was!

    You are thinking of Jimmy Mundy (probably after the genuine Billie Sunday) a social reformer in the short story "The Aunt and the Sluggard".
    I gave up watching the Fry and Laurie series. Too many features changed from the original and separate stories mashed together.
  • MiliMili Shipmate
    The Fry and Laurie series was a travesty. They deserve to be burned at the stake for that (although I like other stuff they've done).

    I watched a clip on Youtube from one episode and they did not act at all like I imagined the characters from reading the book. One clip is not enough to judge if I would like it or not, but it did not really inspire me to watch more.
  • finelinefineline Kerygmania Host, 8th Day Host
    I went through a phase of reading Wodehouse when I was 15, kind of similar to my phase of reading Agatha Christie at 14, where I really enjoyed the books, read lots of them avidly, and then after a while found them rather samey and stopped. Then the TV series came out very soon after, so I was fascinated to watch. I remember observing that they did change things and mash the stories together, so I realised pretty soon that they weren't going to be an exact retelling of the books, though I didn't mind too much, as the books seemed the kind you could mash together without losing the sense of fun and whimsy. It seemed to me back then that the humour was largely based on the characters. I actually loved the TV series, as I'd always enjoyed Fry and Laurie as comedians, and for me they enhanced the humour in the novels, and added something new the novels had lacked.

    Having said that, I'm now very curious to reread Aunts Aren't Gentlemen all these years later, to see what new things I notice in it. I always find it fun to reread books I read as a teenager, to see them afresh from the perspective of middle age. It may also be that I wouldn't like the TV series now.
  • SarasaSarasa Shipmate
    I liked the Fry and Laurie series too. It didn't bother me that the stories were mashed together and Bertie playing the piano, presumably so Laurie could show off his skills was a bonus.
    But I did try and watch the Neflix Anne with an E series, and gave up at episode three as they changed it around too much.
    I guess it depends on how much you thin the original is 'sacred'.
  • EirenistEirenist Shipmate
    There was a falling off in Wodehouse's later work - 'Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves' is a rehash of 'The Code of the Woosters'. Admittedly he gets the loose ends of the latter tidied up.
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