As an audiobook, it could have only been read by one voice – Stephen Fry. And listening to 40 hours of Fry reading Jeeves and Wooster has been bliss. They went with me for lunchtime walks and accompanied me while I was knitting and crocheting. And as promised by Fry in the foreword, it felt as if the sun shone all the time. The only warning I would give is that if you listen in public you will chuckle and people will look at you like you’re being weird.
I’ve had one of the Jeeves and Wooster books on my shelves for a few years now, but the size of the font (tiny) and the size of the book (huge) always intimidated me. So when Audible sent my way their umpteenth promotion to make me finally take the subscription I decided to try it out.
The collection includes The Inimitable Jeeves, Carry On Jeeves, Right-Ho Jeeves, The Code of the Woosters and Joy in the Morning. It also has a personal introduction from Fry that nicely sets the stage for the upcoming 40 hours of listening.
I had so much fun. I think it took me over two months to listen to the whole thing. Because I generally can listen to audiobooks only when I’m on my own. It seems kind of antisocial to do it when my Bogger Half is in the room. As I’m working from home now for over 15 months, the habit of a lunchtime walk is now firmly ingrained. But what I noticed is that sometimes my work goes with me for those walks, and I continue to spin all the work problems in my head. Which renders the walk useless in terms of relaxation.
This is where Jeeves came in, one day I thought to take with me not only my phone (used to obsessively track steps, until the app ticked me off with their change of privacy settings) but also headphones and make the most of it. It was a chilly but sunny day when Jeeves and Wooster joined me for the first time. We climbed the hill to reach Blackheath together. This proved to be a perfect visual background for their adventures, as Blackheath is surrounded by what you could describe as classic English houses, there are also churches around and the whole thing looks like a postcard of Britishness.
To top that off Fry’s voice is one of the most soothing voices in the business. So Bertie Wooster’s silliness, Jeeves stoic approach combined with Fry’s voice was just what the doctor ordered.
Now I’m not sure if you are familiar with Jeeves and Wooster, if yes, skip this paragraph, if not stick with me. Bertie Wooster is a rich single youngish aristocrat living in London. He’s got two aunts, a horrid aunt Agatha and a chummy aunt Dahlia. Jeeves is his valet or gentleman’s man. Of the pair as you may expect it is Jeeves who is the brains of the operation, though he lets Bertie think he has the upper hand. The cast is supplemented in each story either by Bertie’s various family members or his friends. They all usually are involved in romantic troubles that Jeeves and Bertie try to help them solve, with varying levels of success.
P.G. Wodehouse had a very prolific career and Jeeves and Wooster are probably his most known creations. He published their adventures for 60 years. The adventures of Jeeves and Wooster are silly and slapstick at times. But what really makes this work for me is the beautiful language, the tiny hint of irony in every word. The joy of subtly picking on people’s flaws. And as Fry mentions in his introduction it is a world when the sun always shines. An easier and simpler one, more privileged. A world where nothing really bad can happen. Where we can safely have some fun and relax. This is exactly what I needed to take my brain off work during lunchtime walks.
Now the only mystery left for me is whether Jeeves’ pick-me-up really works. Bertie provides the recipe several times, but it sounds really gross. Apparently it may be a version of a prairie oyster. Has any of you ever tried it?