Even when I’m not in the mood for Wodehouse, I’m in the mood for Wodehouse. The Small Bachelor was next in TBR pile, and, if I’m honest, I was in a bit of a funk and just didn’t feel like reading it. So fat. The cover was weird. Why do I even read. I’ll admit that I was in a sour mood. (Also, when I’m in a sour mood, I don’t use question marks. Even my questions are actually statements. I can’t explain why.) But I picked up The Small Bachelor anyway. Not only did it (as Wodehouse always does) break my reading funk, it also put me in much better mood.
Per usual, the plot for The Small Bachelor is chaotic and would sound ridiculous if written by anyone else. Only Wodehouse can create an entire story based around instalove that I not only find entertaining, but almost believable. (AND I found myself rooting for the main couple even though the proposal had taken place during conversation #3!)
George Finch has conveniently inherited enough money to pursue his life-long dream of being an artist. Living in a bohemian neighborhood in New York City, Finch rents a flat on the roof of an apartment building.
On the other side of the roof, opposite the fire-escape, stands what is technically known as a ‘small bachelor apartment, penthouse style’. It is a white-walled, red-tiled bungalow, and the small bachelor who owns it is a very estimable young man named George Finch…
Wodehouse has a habit of throwing together several characters in a way that he somehow makes seem completely plausible even when it isn’t. Wodehouse uses coincidences like they are going out of style, and doesn’t hesitate to make people fall in love at first sight. Frankly, Wodehouse’s writing style, described objectively, sounds like something that would drive me crazy. But I laughed through almost every absurd page. Finch falls in love with a beautiful young woman, Molly Waddington. Molly falls in love right back and they get engaged. Molly’s stepmother, who holds the purse strings, disapproves of Finch, assuming him to be the usual poor artist-type. Finch’s neighbor and good friend, Hamilton Beamish, writes educational pamphlets on almost every subject, and always seems to crop up at the most optimal time for dispensing wisdom and a calming influence. Wodehouse gives us the usual range of characters – a snobby butler, a poetry-writing policeman, a reformed-burglar-come-man-of-all-work and his light-fingered fiancee, a downtrodden husband attempting to rise from the ashes, and so many more.
For instance, Molly’s father, Sigsbee H. Waddington. Beamish describes him thus:
‘Sigsbee H. Waddington,’ he said, ‘is one of those men who must, I think, during the formative years of their boyhood have been kicked on the head by a mule. It has been well said of Sigsbee H. Waddington that, if men were dominoes, he would be the double-blank.’
Wodehouse has the genuine genius of being able to describe a character in just a few lines in a way that makes that character immediately come to life. I think it is one of the things I enjoy about his writing the most.
The standard of male looks presented up to the present in this story has not been high: but the man who now entered did much to raise the average.
While The Small Bachelor was not my favorite Wodehouse ever, it was definitely a relaxing and fun one-off. There were some genuinely terrific scenes involving various characters fleeing from the police, and Wodehouse, as always, managed to bring everyone back into line and wrap them up perfectly by the last page.
My advice to you is this: even if you think you don’t want to read Wodehouse, you want to read Wodehouse, so you should find one today.