Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Crikey! How Did That Happen? by Ian Strathcarron

After a long literary absence we are able to return to some charming Wodehouse-esq humour with the (refreshingly unauthorised) biography of Sir Bertram Wooster, KG by Ian Strathcarron. Bertie is definitely one of my favourite literary characters, and I have laughed my way through all of his escapades in book form and on TV (with the wonderful Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry).  So, when I was asked if I would like to review this book, I could not resist.

Told by way of short stories set seven years apart, we see Bertram grow from a likeable youngster who ‘wasn’t one of life’s great thinkers but he gave it his best’, to a young man with the best valet ever, on to becoming a married man and so on with the ensuing adventures and hobnobbing with the rich and famous on the side.

The various stories include Gussie Fink-Nottle and Aunt Agatha (who suggests that Bertie concentrated on learning manners rather than his lessons) along with many other Jeeves & Wooster favourites as Bertie ducks in and out of ‘the soup’ in his light hearted way with and without the help of Jeeves across the years, and around the world.

The tone of the novel is slightly more serious than I expected as it tries to encapsulate the events of the times, and inserting Bertie into some key moments in history.  In one story he finds himself as an expendable decoy for the British while playing piano at a party given by Mussolini, and in another helping out a pal who has been blacklisted in Hollywood. 

There is plenty of namedropping along the way which actually triggered some fond memories for me (mainly entertainers such as Arthur Askey, Willie Rushton and Hatti Jacques for example), with Bertie being involved in the Royal Variety Performance Shows, radio, TV and Pantomine. 

The author has certainly put a lot of thought into these stories.  Each one is nicely written with clever imaginative scenarios, and although lacking some of the goofy charm of the original works in the first couple of stories, I did find the whole quite a nice ‘nod’ to Wodehouse’s much loved literary creation.