Uncle Fred In The Springtime: A Blandings Story, by P.G. Wodehouse
As a writer, there is the tendency for characters to be a part of an epic story, and in this relatively short (250 page) novel by famed British comedic author P.G. Wodehouse, we see characters from different parts of the Wodehouse canon joining together to demonstrate that Wodehouse’s’ vision of England is a fairly small world . This is not necessarily a bad thing, as the novel itself is highly entertaining, but it is definitely noteworthy. Uncle Fred is blessed with a somewhat morose nephew named Pongo who I tend to be able to empathize with to a great degree. Although this novel is definitely a farce and likely resembles no one in reality, at least to too great a degree, this is the sort of novel that can be read humorously and allows the reader to pass the time most agreeably. If someone in the present age cannot find enjoyment in people playing confidence games and passing themselves off as other people while in gorgeous English country with a great deal of wit and an improbably happy ending, they probably struggle to find a great deal of enjoyment in life in general.
The plot of this novel is, admittedly, pretty ridiculous. Pongo finds himself in gambling debts to some very bad people while simultaneously his friend Horace is dumped by his fiance after she catches him having sent a private investigator after her because he is insecure about her popularity with guys. Meanwhile, the investigators daughter happens to be Horace’s dance instructor and engaged to the nephew of a duke who happens to be a menace with a poker, and who also wants Lord Emsworth’s precious pig, while also hating one of my favorite Scottish songs, which serves as a humorous running gag throughout the novel. Large amounts of money change hands as people try to con others and encourage true love to prevail despite the absurdity of life. For most of the characters at least, the ending is a relatively happy one thanks to the insouciance of Uncle Fred, who is a menace but one who ends up smooth rough paths even as he makes the seemingly smooth paths rough. As might be expected from a comedy, all of the drama in the book leaves the characters more or less in a status quo ante.
A few aspects of this novel are worthy of a bit of attention and reflection. For one, the author has a wonderful way with words, in that he describes the general shadiness and moral ambiguity of private investigator Potts as being Puritan, which is as deliberately obtuse a description as one can imagine. Although it is difficult to imagine many of these people happy as married folk, this is at least a worthwhile Wodehouse novel in that it portrays both men and women in a good light, at least relatively speaking and also points out that sometimes unpleasant people are relied upon to make things turn out right for others. We find these helpful and efficient people throughout the novel, from the helpful but unscrupulous Uncle Fred to the helpful and efficient and far more inscrutable Baxter,and our feelings about at all are somewhat mixed just like they would be in real life. And if the end result of the novel is to encourage readers to take their lives less for granted, there is still something appealing about how random the novel is and how it managers to sell its commitment for the sort of good life all of hope for and few of us manage to provide.
[1[ See, for example: