Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Review: A Damsel in Distress

Original Publication Date:  1919

Genre:  Humor, Romance

Topics:  England, Mistaken Identity, Comedy of Manners

Review:  PG Wodehouse is most famous for his Jeeves & Wooster stories, but those are not the only books he ever wrote!  He also wrote other books with light humor and bumbling aristocrats and very capable butlers that did not star either Jeeves or Wooster.  A Damsel in Distress is one of those books.

George Bevan is bored of life - what more is there for him to do when he's a brilliantly rich and successful music composer before age 30?  He's lonely, but all the women he knows are (of course) dull, and he is completely over women.

And then one day, he's in a taxicab and a beautiful woman breathlessly jumps in and asks him to hide her.  He realizes that perhaps he's not completely over women, agrees to help her, and after knocking a chubby man's hat off and causing a scene in the middle of London, he saves her and then loses sight of her without learning her name.

But Bevan is an intrepid man, and he learns that he has fallen in love with Lady Maud Marshmoreton.  He tracks her down to a rural hamlet, and then there's a lot of mistaken identities, and finally, everything works out just as it should.

This book was fun to read, but it wasn't quite as snortingly, laugh-out-loud funny as many of Wodehouse's other books.  Wodehouse is great at comedic scenes, but not (in my opinion) that great at creating particularly differentiated or memorable characters.  You read one of his books, greatly enjoy it, and then promptly forget the details of it.  But that's what makes them so easy to read over and over, I think.

This book, though, was a bit light on the situational comedy.  It was there, of course - there were scenes that were funny.  But George Bevan was also quite moody some of the time, and it seemed like the characters weren't quite as happy and funny as they could have been, and that dampened my enjoyment somewhat.  It's all very good to laugh at bumbling aristocrats when they are happy and good-natured, but when they are sad and feel trod upon, it's not nearly as fun.  And George Bevan was just too perfect.  Wooster is great because he's really well-meaning but cant really do much of anything right.  Whereas Bevan does pretty much everything right, and is pretty dull because of it.  I much prefer Wooster and all the tongue-in-cheek humor that spills from the pages of those books.

This is an entertaining book, and probably perfect for a flight or a day at the beach or when you're in the mood for a rom-com, but just can't commit to Meg Ryan.  It's light and fun, but just not as fun as you may expect from Wodehouse.