As recently noted, I am saddened to have to move on past Jonathan Cecil’s narration of the Jeeves audiobooks. Here I give Simon Prebble’s voice a go, with the very first published Jeeves book. This is a short story collection – not a format I’m a fan of generally, but I finally got around to starting at the beginning. Most of the stories here included had been published before, and only about half feature Bertie Wooster and his butler Jeeves. The other half star Reggie Pepper, a character I had not encountered before. Wikipedia claims he was an early prototype for Bertie, but I didn’t taste that flavor at all. I found Pepper much cleverer than Bertie (although he doesn’t always feel that way himself). And while Reggie’s stories were diverting in the usual Wodehouse way, they did begin to feel a little much like the usual Wodehouse: I started recognizing formulaic phrases and the like. It felt a little bit repetitive. I liked the Bertie Wooster stories much more. Were they less formulaic? Or am I just more forgiving of my old friend Bertie? Hard to say. But the ordering of the stories, which goes Jeeves-Jeeves-Jeeves-Pepper-Pepper-Pepper-Pepper-Jeeves, had me a little sad faced until that final Bertie and Jeeves story popped up. My preferences are clear.
These stories really do feel like early Wodehouse. I think he got better with time. And to be fair, there is something formulaic about his writing, and that’s not all bad, if you hit upon a successful formula. Funny and fun (and easily taken in chunks, of course, being short stories), but not the very best of Wodehouse that I’ve discovered.
And the narrator? Maybe he would have pleased me if he had been my introduction to Wodehouse, but having fallen for Johnathan Cecil’s voice, I cannot be persuaded of any other. This may be a problem independent of the specific narrators in question, however, so, grain of salt.
Enjoyable, but fewer belly laughs than I’ve come to expect.