I bought Indiscretions of Archie by PG Wodehouse in Winchester, because I liked the title and the age of the book, and you can never go wrong with Wodehouse. A quick scan of Amazon tells me that there are lots of different editions available, including one forthcoming in the brilliant Everyman series. Mine is from the 1920s, and has a wonderful mustiness to it.
Archie is an insouciant Englishman who travels to America with his new wife Lucille. He prefixes almost everything with ‘jolly old’, and is filled with bonhomie to bursting. His plan is to hit it off with father-in-law Daniel Brewster, hotel proprietor. Which, as you’ll have guessed if you’ve ever read Wodehouse, doesn’t go quite to plan. And then chaos ensues.
Only Wodehouse could get artist’s models, snakes, pie-eating contests, dietician experts, and someone who once gave someone a sausage in the war all into the same novel. There are some wonderfully funny scenes, and everything Wodehouse touches comes out hilarious. He has a brilliant mix of hyperbole and litotes, not to mention delightful similes – ‘Archie was one of those sympathetic souls in whom even strangers readily confide their most intimate troubles. He was to those in travail of spirit very much what cat-nip is to a cat.’ Indiscretions of Archie isn’t my favourite Wodehouse, and I discovered why after I’d finished. The novel was originally a series of short stories which Wodehouse then linked together, and it really does show. I should have guessed. His novels are usually characterised by their cohesion and crazy, but coherent, plots which all come together at the last minute. Indiscretions of Archie is much more disjointed – very funny, but rather more episodic than most of his novels are. Not the best place to start, but I always enjoy being reminded how brilliant Pelham Grenville was.
Favourite Wodehouse novels? I find them so similar that it’s difficult to choose, but my first one was The Girl on the Boat, so it might be that one.