Thursday, December 18, 2014

Book Review: The Pothunters and Other School Stories by P. G. Wodehouse

The Pothunters and Other School Stories
P.G. Wodehouse

P. G. Wodehouse famously wrote ninety-two books. This volume collects the first three of them. These early books are school stories. They were popular in their day and many readers became Wodehouse fans for life.

Wodehouse's first novel is The Pothunters, first published in 1902. The plot concerns some purloined silver trophies (the pots of the title) from the Cricket Pavilion at a boarding school called St. Austin's. Overall, it is weak and demonstrates numerous missed opportunities for humor. If people are reading this today, it's solely on the strength of young Wodehouse's authorship, and not because of any great intrinsic merit. Wodehouse is still on training wheels here.

A Prefect's Uncle, his second book from 1902, is a little better, although not all that much. There is a long and glorious tradition in Wodehouse's fiction of nettlesome aunts and uncles, and this novel is apparently the beginning of it all, although the uncle in question is unusually underage.

Finally, Tales of St. Austin's dates from 1903, the year Wodehouse turned 22. It is a collection of short stories and is a notable improvement on the earlier books. "The Manoeuvres of Charteris" is the centerpiece here, an amusing story in six chapters. Less happily, there are four first-person opinion pieces tacked on at the end which are not in keeping with the style of the rest of the book. I suppose it's understandable for a young author to wish to collect all his scattershot musings and preserve them in book form, but overall it doesn't really make for a unified book.

Note:  I have a couple of other blog posts related to P. G. Wodehouse.


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