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The First From Blandings Castle
on February 18, 2006
This book was first published as "Something New" in the U.S. on September 3rd, 1915 by D. Appleton and Company, and then in the U.K. on September 16th, 1915 by Methuen & Co., and this is the first of the Blandings Castle stories. As far as Wodehouse stories go this is not his best, but it does introduce characters which appear in many of his later works.
The main two characters of the story are Ashe Marson, a writer of cheap detective novels, and Joan Valentine, a woman who lives in his apartment building who laughs at his morning exercises which results in their meeting. Neither of them is satisfied with what they are doing in life, and both are in the need for money.
The story moves to different characters from time to time, in typical Wodehouse fashion. Important characters include Aline Peters, Jane's friend who is engaged to Frederick Threepwood, who is the son of the Earl of Emsworth who is the lord of Blandings Castle, and is a very absent minded individual. Jane's father is J. Preston Peters, an American business man who collects scarabs and suffers from digestion problems.
Other characters included are Baxter, the Earl's secretary, and R. Jones, a less than honest man whom Frederick has hired to recover love letters he wrote to an actress (Joan Valentine) in the past which might contain evidence for a breach of promises suit. There are also the many guests and servants of Blandings Castle.
It would be impossible to cover all the twists in a Wodehouse plot, but many of his usual devices are here. Characters pretending to be someone they are not, misunderstandings galore, and love, of course. Some of the scenes which I liked the best included Baxter's attempts to catch someone trying to steal the Scarab, and the servant scenes where the hierarchy of servants comes into play. I have yet to read a Wodehouse book which wasn't enjoyable, and this one is no exception. However, there are many of his stories which are better than this one.
This edition is part of "The Collector's Wodehouse" series being published by The Overlook Press in the U.S. (in the U.K. it is "The Everyman's Wodehouse" series being published by Everyman's Library).