As I said in my post last year announcing this project of reading a book a week for a year, some of the books involved would be ones I’d read before. Money In the Bank by PG Wodehouse is such a volume.
Wodehouse is probably best known for the Jeeves and Wooster stories and the Blandings Castle saga (as he named it). But a significant portion of his books are standalone stories, albeit sometimes the same characters occur in different books.
First published in 1942 Money in the Bank is one of these, and is in my opinion one of his very finest books. It contains a wonderful character in Lord Uffenham, the hero is the England scrum half and in Anne Benedick has arguably his finest heroine. It can fairly be said that as his writing progressed through the years the young female characters in Wodehouse’s books became more of a lightly drawn sketch, rather than a fully developed character, but Anne is a living woman who leaps out of the page.
One characteristic of Wodehouse books is the recurring theme of The Imposter, something that occurs innumerable times. Almost every Blandings book has at least one person pretending to be someone else. Money in the Bank has four of them, including Jeff Miller, the afore-mentioned England scrum half and Cakebread the butler who for long and complicated reasons is actually George, Viscount Uffenham.
The book has charm, wit, humour and tells the story well. But it also has a great description of falling in love. An example:
“Anne Benedick gave a sudden laugh, so silvery, so musical, that it seemed to Jeff that his great passion, in the truest and deepest sense of the words, really dated from this moment. Ever since she had come in, shimmering across the threshold like the spirit of the June day, he had known, of course, in a sort of general way that the strange emotion she woke in him was love, but this laugh – hitherto she had merely smiled – seemed to underline the facts and clarify his outlook. There was all Heaven in Anne Benedick’s laugh. It conjured up visions of a cozy home on a winter’s night, with one’s slippers on one’s feet, the dog on one’s lap, an open fire in the grate and the good old pipe drawing nicely.”
The feelings between Anne and Jeff change through the book before the inevitable happy ending, and in my opinion it is better described here than in any other Wodehouse – certainly better than in any of the dozens that I have read.
This is a brilliant book. If you are a Wodehouse fan then you probably know this anyway, and if not then you are strongly encouraged to give it a go.