The Mating Season, P.G. Wodehouse 1949
This is another one of Susan Hill’s Final Forty, the forty books she would choose to take if about to be stranded on an island for the rest of her days. Wodehouse is given the honor of having two of his books chosen, an honor only given to one other author, Anthony Trollope. Having enjoyed the other Wodehouse book, I turned to this one with eager hopes only to abandon it after some 50 pages, distracted and distraught by the COVID and Trump twin disasters. It was an essay in the June 1st New Yorker by Rivka Galchen that prompted me to resume my reading, and I am grateful to her for that encouragement. The book is totally silly, and like all of the Wooster/Jeeves novels (some 12 in number) it deals with the silly affectations and pursuits of the British landed gentry. The details are not important having mostly to do with confused identity, romances that appear doomed only to find their blissful conclusions at the end of the book, and a wonderful set of names and characters including Augustus Fink-Nottle, Catsmeat Pirbright, Edmund Haddock, and Poppy Kegley-Basington. What Wodehouse offers is, in the words of Galchen, the promise of a pleasure ‘cozier than cozy mysteries, and like a mystery, they help to take one’s mind off real calamities”. I took her advice that ‘whenever the impersonal or personal news cycle becomes overwhelming I find that it’s easier to transition into a night of sleep after a character is described as looking like a bewildered halibut.’ I found reading 10-20 pages of Wodehouse upon climbing into bed as the perfect antidote to our unsettling times. Give it a try.