Wodehouse: A Pelican at Blandings

December 8, 2022

A Pelican at Blandings
P.G. Wodehouse
(Overlook, 2010) [1969]
240 p.

Wodehouse’s novels are by reputation frothy larks, so readers can be forgiven for being caught off guard when, early in A Pelican at Blandings, something happens that strikes cold dread in the heart: Lord Emsworth’s prize pig, the Empress of Blandings, refuses to eat a potato.

When, in a subsequent scene, a large painting of a female nude is installed at Blandings Castle, I began to feel my palms sweating, and when, in a still more subsequent scene, not just one but two coteries of thieves plot to steal the painting, I was confirmed in my judgment that this is an uncharacteristically disturbing and unwholesome entry in Wodehouse’s canon, and by a significant margin.

To be sure, some of the elements that are familiar from earlier Blandings novels recur here, but typically with some shocking twist. A young woman wants to marry against her family’s wishes, but she wants to marry a man pretending to be a looney doctor’s junior assistant. A rich woman arrives as a guest under false pretences, but Wodehouse, in a move that must have imperiled cross-Atlantic diplomatic relations at the time, chooses to make her an American. Even more outrageous calumnies occur, or are suggested, but for propriety’s sake I won’t mention them here.

Obviously, and notwithstanding the admitted truth that the writing in A Pelican at Blandings is a dream, I cannot recommend the book unreservedly. Mature readers might enjoy aspects of it — rather, I suspect, as some people apparently enjoy those Saw movies — but I would advise, in that case, that it may be best to keep near at hand a cold compress and a hot toddy — and perhaps a potato.

4 Responses to “Wodehouse: A Pelican at Blandings”

  1. blah Says:

    While I try to decode this review, I’ll report that I was looking for a spot in which to mention that this site might be the last bastion of sanity on the internet. The fact that so much of it is so far over my head helps only adds to that feeling. Something about noble ideals, I think, but how would I know.

    Anyway, I see by the “related” links that there are other Wodehouse books about which the recommendations might be easier for me to grasp, so maybe I’ll click to those…

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