Who has not come to know and love the impeccable Jeeves and the inimitable Bertie? Together with Lord Emsworth, his prize sow the Empress of Blandings, Psmith, and a whole host of redoubtable Wooster aunts, they form a cast of characters, immortalized in print and on screen, whose sharply observed antics are as popular now as when they first appeared in 1919. But what of their creator, Pelham Greville Wodehouse, whose 93 years produced a volume of work "unsurpassed in the history of literature"? Was he really a traitor to his country who broadcast dangerous propaganda from Germany during the war? And how can this be squared with the immensely lovable figure of "Plum" upon whom the Queen bestowed a knighthood in 1975?
In researching this authorized, definitive biography, Frances Donaldson was given unique access to Wodehouse's most important private papers, including the notebooks he kept during the sad episode of his internment during the Second World War. She also, for the first time, puts his beliefs, his writings, and his actions into the full context of the rest of his life.
Lucidly and evocatively written, yet meticulously detailed, P.G. Wodehouse is a thought-provoking biography of an intriguing and widely misunderstood man. It is the benchmark of biographical writing against which recent literary biographies have had to be measured.
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An Appreciative Official Biography of Plum
Well read, fairly honest in its enthusiasm for Wodehouse, and surprisingly objective when it comes to the troublesome aspects of P.G.'s character and difficult periods of his life. The author was a friend of the family who knew PGW, and was also the daughter and biographer of playwright Frederick Lonsdale. This book makes a nice compliment to Robert McCrum's definitive biography of a few years ago. It does provide some greater detail to Plum's interment during WWII, including some lengthy excerpts of his camp journals, and does provide a longer treatment of this period, perhaps more artfully summarized in McCrum's book.
There is an almost chronological review of PGW's writing and some commentary on books other than those most currently remembered (the Jeeves and Bertie series and the Blandings Castle stories).
Ms. Donaldson provides an objective, "insiders" view of PGW, and if she is forgiving of his eccentricities, she does deal with them in an objective, if generally sympathetic manner. The unfortunate episode and its aftermath does cast a kind of pall on the book, which is perhaps proportionate to its impact in PGW's life. But overall, Ms. Donaldson conveys the charmed life of a gifted and rightly celebrated writer. Because of the author's obvious affection for her subject, she does take the time and effort to go through the entirety of his career, including his work for the stage which is sometimes given short shrift.
Like most of the Wodehouse audible releases, the performance is terrific, particularly when reciting excerpts from the Master's work. It was a bit strange at first, to hear a male voice narrating a book authored by a woman, but this worked as well, since there is a lot of recitation from PGW's work and his private correspondences.
- Mark "Esoth"