Let me start by saying that I like PG Wodehouse’s dim-witted Bertie Wooster and his gentleman’s gentleman, Jeeves.
Mostly short stories, these are narrated by Wooster himself, who is a generally idle man-about-town between the Wars. His narration is as vague as his thinking, but is still amusing. Wooster spends his time getting into scrapes, often due to not paying attention, from which he is rescued by the unflappable Jeeves. It works, particularly his language and style of talking, which is so stereotypical for the period and class.
I haven’t seen the Fry and Laurie TV show, but I can see how both of them fit their roles. One day, I shall settle in for a binge.
So when I first came across Simon Brett’s Blotto, Twinks and the Ex-King’s Daughter, I settled in to be amused. It’s written in much the same sort of Wodehousian style, language-wise.
Blotto is the aristocratic dimwit and his sister Twinks is the brains. When Blotto stumbles over a dead body in the library, it’s his sister he calls. Naturally, these aren’t their real names – Devereux and Honoria are, and who knows how they picked up the nicknames – and they are siblings of the current Duke of Tawcester (pronounced Taster, because, you know, English, especially when it comes to aristocratic names).
The ex-King and his entourage (wife, daughter and various bodyguards) are staying at Tawcester, guests of the Duke, and the ex-Princess is kidnapped. Family honour and all demands that she be rescued. By Blotto.
It sounds quite entertaining. Blotto and Twinks talk precisely as the stereotype imagines the between-war aristocrats talked, with everything larksissimo. Very Wooster.
Unfortunately, while the stereotyped language works for Wooster, with Blotto and Twinks, it merely irritated me. Perhaps it wouldn’t have done had the third-person narrator resisted the temptation to talk likewise. Although the plot is more than a little bit ridiculous, so perhaps it wouldn’t have supported less idiomatic language.
Perhaps, unlike Wooster, it was all just a little bit too unbelievable, which meant that it was difficult for me to suspend disbelief. Wooster is himself, in all his mundanity: Blotto and Twinks self-consciously larking about, even as they go to rescue the ex-Princess.
And I think that’s the thing: the language, when it’s so over-the-top, becomes another character, and I don’t think such a character requires a farfetched plot. There are others in the series, but since I failed to complete a reread of this first one, it’s probably safe to say I won’t bother with the rest. I only tried to reread it to see if it really was as bad as I remembered. And it was.