It is my first try on Blandings Castle Series; however I didn’t get into the first one, Something Fresh; instead I got myself this one – Summer Lightning. This is out of my expectations! I shouldn’t be saying that because I know all works by Sir P. G. Wodehouse are all gems, but this one just totally blows me off!
Summer Lightning, as we could all imagine, starts with a peaceful, picturesque atmosphere setting in a castle located in Shropshire. Everything seems calm but soon the characters emerge one by one – Beach the Butler, Clarence Threepwood (9th Earl of Emsworth, the first Emsworth who has ever won a pig pageant silver prize in a row), Hugo Carmody (the secretary whom Lord Emsworth so approves of), Aunt Constance (yet again another formidable aunt), Baxter (former secretary of Lord Emsworth whom Aunt Constance so approves of), and Sir Galahad Threepwood (brothers to the Threepwoods, the only one I consider to be the only normal entity in this book), etc. – with those unsound people residing in the castle and some other charming heroines and romances that aren’t favoured by the relatives, you could expect some lunatics will be going to contrive some “clever” plots and turning out to be consecutive predicaments and unbearable farce! And this time, two romantics pairs are trying to take advantage of the pig, the Empress of Blandings, in order to let their wedding bells ring!
There are so many parts of the story which set me in laughing fart, and the one which I appreciate the most is the series of unfortunate events of Baxter. Lord Emsworth, the rambling aristocrat and proprietor of Blandings who regards Baxter “as mad as a coot”, always has to bear and conquer his former secretary and ending up in frightening and unpredictable look because every time Baxter would conjure himself up of nowhere and evidence of himself madness! First time Lord Emsworth suspects himself of seeing an apparition of Baxter, second time thinks of him of committing suicide, then he carries an ivory stick to avoid being attacked in a rampage, and finally pointing at him with a gun! The Misunderstandings and disputes and confrontation of the two that Wodehouse portrays in his works are classic trademark trigger of laugh and chuckle.
None of its three members seemed really in the mood for a ramble through the woods. Beach, though face of a good man misjudged. Baxter was eyeing the sullen sky as though he suspected it of something. As for Lord Emsworth, though dark and deserted ways one who, though one this afternoon’s evidence the trend of his tastes seemed to be towards suicide, might quite possibly become homicidal.
Apart from that, the Butler Beach of Blandings Castle is of course not to be overlooked! The rivalry and dialogues between Beach and Baxter is clever plot. It is like a hilarious version of Wilkie Collins’s dual rivals. Moreover, I enjoy the point that everyone is really trying to be clever in deducing the conspirator behind this surreptitious act (Gregory Parsloe-Parsloe? Hugo Carmody? Beach?), and whereabouts the Empress is. The plot is seamless and superbly funny in Wodehouse’s narration and description in his story-telling.
After I finish the book and flip back the pages of the preface, I find that Wodehouse actually mentions Thackeray’s Vanity Fair concerning the naming of the Title and the “puppets” in his book! Amazing! Great read!