Sunday, 5 September 2010

Book reviews: P.G. Wodehouse, Beryl Bainbridge, Mary Norton

For those new to my challenge, I am reviewing every single book I read during this year, regardless of whatever I pick up (as my reading tastes are fairly eclectic, and rather broad!). I am curious to see how many books I get through in a year, as although a fairly quick reader, I am limited to reading mainly on the commute to the full-time job.

So without further ado, here are the next three on the list…

The Borrowers Afield, by Mary Norton
The Inimitable Jeeves, by P.G. Wodehouse
The Bottle Factory Outing, by Beryl Bainbridge

The Borrowers Afield, by Mary Norton
Illustrations by Diana Stanley
First published by Dent 1955
This edition published by Puffin Books, 1970

This is Mary’s sequel to The Borrowers, the tale of tiny folk who live behind the cracks in houses. In The Borrowers Afield, the Clock family (Pod, Homily and fourteen year old Arrietty) have left the safe world of the house behind them and are pitting their wits in the wild.

What I like about this book is that Mary Norton doesn’t use any short-cuts; she thinks about what a tiny person would have to contend with, what they would eat, where they would live, how they would protect themselves – and it is all perfectly feasible. There are no diversions into magic or talking animals, and because of that The Borrowers feel quite real. There are also lovely touches of humour and description – you quite understand Arietty’s longing to see the world. Reading this book is like being wrapped up in autumn; you can taste the berries, smell the trees, see the colours. A gentle sequel in many ways, but very enjoyable.

The Inimitable Jeeves, by P.G. Wodehouse
First published by Herbert Jenkins 1924
This edition published by Penguin Books 1973

This was a delight from beginning to end. Although Jeeves as a character had been introduced in several short stories prior to this book, here he comes into his own. For those not familiar, Jeeves is the exceedingly clever valet to rich young Bertie Wooster, and is the man who constantly saves Bertie from various disasters, be they social, financial, or, heavens forbid, his Aunt Agatha paying a visit. Set in the era in which they were written, flitting between London and New York, these stories sing of gentlemen’s clubs, the Serpentine, ‘blighted tea-and-bun shops’, wearing the wrong socks, the theatre and what sport one may find in the country.

You sense that P.G.Wodehouse had fun writing these books, as he is a complete master of language and knows how to make words dance for him. Even the chapter titles give away the clue you are in for a treat, with gems such as ‘Jeeves Exerts the Old Cerebellum’ and ‘The Great Sermon Handicap’. There is a lovely subtle humour throughout the book that is never over-played, and the result is a real romp of a read, even if you spend the next few days talking like a Wooster.

The Bottle Factory Outing, by Beryl Bainbridge
First published by Gerald Duckworth & Co Ltd 1974
This edition published by Fontana 1976

Here we are introduced to larger than life Freda with her love of exuberant drama, and Brenda who wants to creep around the corners of her life like a pale mouse. The unlikely duo share a flat in London, and both work at in the bottle factory. Freda is convinced that all the Italian men at the factory fancy her, and decides to arrange an outing to spice up her imagined entanglements. However nothing goes as she planned.

This is a strange unnerving story – it starts off in humour, but there is an air of unease from the start that the outing will go wrong in some way. When it does; the mood of the story shifts entirely into dark tragedy. It becomes less about Freda and Brenda, and more about society in general, how sad it can be when you realise some folk in this world have such flimsy anchors in life. If they break, who knows or cares?

It is good to have books that challenge you occasionally, and although the subject matter is a little bleak, the descriptions of the little flat in London and the characters themselves are very vivid without being over-blown. The contrast between the beginning and the end is very clever, and the writing is really magnificent. It’s not a long book so in a way it is an easy read, but is it really? Only you will know.

If you’d like to read more of my book reviews, please click here

And now for Blog Parties!

There are two fantastic blog parties continuing this weekend, and you can attend both from the comfort of your chair. Karen G is holding a lovely blog BBQ, and Donna a fab blog party. All you have to do to join the fun is to pop over to each, follow them, leave a comment and then browse through the comments already there and find some new fantastic people to follow! If you do pop over then please help yourself to a glass of the finest pink fizz at Karen's, which was my virtual contribution, and at Donna's tell Colin Firth to hold off from diving into the pond in his dress shirt until I am back there to ogle. Thanks!


music obsessive said...

Well, what can you say about Jeeves? I knew you'd love him. The problem with watching dramatisations of these types of stories is that they miss the point. And that is that the root of the humour stems from Bertie's narrative where the reader sees through his eyes and is party to his well meaning yet misunderstanding attitude, not from what actually happens. TV only shows you what happens thus missing all the delicious thoughts in poor Bertie's underperforming brain.

Moral - read the books!

Mimi said...

Hi Jayne, I'll definitely add "the bottle factory outing" to my list on my next trip to the bookshop.
Great blog you have here, see you soon again.

Happy Frog and I said...

I had not heard of the bottle factory outing before, I think I will need to get my hands on a copy. I really enjoyed all the reviews though.

Old Kitty said...

These are great reviews - and fab books (although I've not read the beryl bainbridge one - will do now!!). Jeeves is fab - delightful is the word!! The Borrowers and The borrowers afield... beautiful!! I want to re-read them again now.

Have a lovely Sunday! Take care

Mystica said...

I'd love to go and dig out a Wodehouse. I am sure it will be available here.

Kittie Howard said...

Thanks, Jayne, for yummy reviews. I've written down The Borrowers Afield. Had never heard of it, yipes, where have I been??

Clarence Carlyle said...

Nicely reviewed. Came to your site while looking for reviews on the books that we are looking forward to keep in our office library.

Being an avid reader, I think the world of books is the most remarkable creation of man. Nothing else that he builds ever lasts except books. In their world, there are volumes that have seen this happen again and again and yet live on, still young, still as fresh as the day they were written, still telling men's hearts of the heart of men centuries dead.


Faith E. Hough said...

I LOVE P. G. Wodehouse, and Mary Norton ranks pretty high on my list, too. I might have to look for the third book, b/c I've never heard of it...

penandpaints said...

I love The Borrowers, I haven't read the second one! And do you remember Mrs Pepperpot? I loved that one too, but I can't remember the author, I'll have to google it. I have just written a borrower-esque children's story, so I hope the idea is still popular!

Karen Yuan said...

The Bottle Factory Outing sounds like my kind of book :D

Thanks for the reviews! Came over from KarenG's BBQ.

mise said...

Jayne, you've won a necklace through your wit and good humour. I hope you like it! Where shall I send it?

Talli Roland said...

What a challenging, er, challenge! I haven't read any of these books, so I was interested to read your reviews.

Hope you had a great weekend!

The Words Crafter said...

I finally read The Borrowers a few years ago and adored it. The sequel reminds one of autumn? Really? I MUST HAVE IT. The other two sound really interesting, too. My TBR list is longer than Santa's naughty and nice lists, combined!!! Hope your week is great!

Rachna Chhabria said...

Hi Jayne...thanks for the wonderful reviews. I will definitely add The Bottle Factory Outing and The Borrowers Afield on my buying list. Both sound like my kind of books.

Rachna Chhabria said...

Hi Jayne...thanks for the wonderful reviews. I will definitely add The Bottle Factory Outing and The Borrowers Afield on my buying list. Both sound like my kind of books.

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

Reviewing everything you read ...hmm... I'm going to have to ponder that! :)

Thanks for stopping by on the BBQ! :)

Jayne said...

Music obsessive – Great summing up. I missed all the delicious misconceptions poor Bertie was labouring under in the TV adaptations – now I will probably watch it again with renewed understanding!

Mimi – The Bottle Factory Outing was my first introduction to Beryl Bainbridge but now I am curious to know more. Glad you like the blog!

Happy Frog – I’d be interested to know your thoughts on it if you do get it!

Old Kitty – So glad you like them. I got the Beryl Bainbridge one as a tribute to her and am very glad I did; wish I had discovered her work sooner.

Mystica – Maybe you can order them online? They are worth finding.

Kittie – If you like The Borrowers Afield, there is also a further one called The Borrowers Afloat. She certainly liked her ‘a’ words!

Clarence – hello! Glad you liked the reviews. An office library sounds fantastic! I love the last sentence of your comment – that is exactly why I love books.

Faith – Do look out for Beryl Bainbridge’s work, although it’s definitely not the same light-hearted read as the other two reviewed here, I think she errs more on the dark side of human nature.

Jayne said...

penandpaints – I do remember Mrs Pepperpot, although I don’t think I was that interested back then. I seem to recall reading it at the same time as one called Clever Polly and the Stupid Wolf, and that story stayed in my head more than the Mrs Pepperpot one. Your story sounds fantastic – I am sure it is still popular!

Karen Yuan – Glad you liked the reviews.

Mise – I am ecstatic about the necklace! Wow, thank you so much. Have already been in touch. :)

Talli – It’s interesting to see what sort of odd stuff I read!

The Words Crafter – Oh you must find the sequel! Especially if you are a fellow autumn fan. Hope your week is great too!

Rachna – I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on those two if you do get them!

Susan Kaye Quinn – I’m really enjoying seeing the reviews build up. I’m sure there’s a few more Calvin & Hobbes in there though.