Narrator: Jonathan Cecil
Length: 6 hours 4 mins
Publisher: Audible Studios
Audible release date: September 2008
As Wodehouse explains in another one of his hilarious introductions, this is the first of the full length Jeeves and Wooster novels. Up to this point the pair had only ever appeared in short story form, and as any writer will tell you, the jump from short story to novel isn’t simply a case of adding a few thousand more words. To produce a decent novel you need a larger cast of characters, a more intricate plot, and generally much more for the listener to get their teeth in to.
Wodehouse begins his tale with a devastating blow. Due to insurmountable musical differences Jeeves resigns his position and leaves Bertie’s employ. The obvious story arc would have been a plot crafted around how Bertie gets him back, but that would have been both too easy and a lot less fun. Instead, the pair go their separate ways, only to be thrown together a week or so later on the country estate of Bertie’s pal, Lord Chuffnell of Chuffnell Hall. A comic tale of crossed lovers and general confusion follows involving J. Washburn Stoker, his daughter Pauline, and our old favourite, Sir Roderick Glossop. Spoiler alert! Jeeves sorts everything out and finishes the story back by Bertie’s side. Fortunately, the fun in Wodehouse’s stories doesn’t rely on the ending. We all know what is going to happen. It’s the journey that counts.
There are many short story writers who never write a decent novel, just as there are many novelists who never manage to pull off a decent short story. Though ‘Thank You, Jeeves’ is short for a novel, it most definitely is one. But, listening to it was just like listening to the short stories. The characters were the same; the descriptions were just as concise and witty; the action zipped along at just the same pace. There was nothing in it that made it feel strung out or more complex. Of course that was totally down to the skill of the author. Look under the hood and we find more characters, multiple sub plots (Including the rift between Bertie and Jeeves right at the start), and a much more fleshed out setting. The thing is that it was all put together with such consummate skill that, as a listener, I just never noticed.
And, once again, Jonathan Cecil deserves an extra special mention. The way he read the scenes involving Bertie’s replacement valet, Brinkley, were simply masterful.
I read recently that us lucky people in the western world can expect to live for over 700,000 hours, provided nothing goes badly wrong. That being the case, I would most definitely recommend spending 6 of them listening to Jonathan Cecil reading this book. If even that seems too much, then switch it up to 1.5 speed and you’ll get through it in 4. That’s what I did and it was just as good.