Narrator: Stephen Fry
Length: 8 hrs 37 mins
Publisher: Audible Studios
Release date: December 2020
When I set out to listen to all of P. G. Wodehouse’s Jeeves and Wooster stories in order my intention was to stick to performances by Jonathan Cecil. I know that Cecil recorded a version of ‘The Code of the Woosters’, partly because I’m sure I remember listening to it years ago, but mainly because there appear to be clips of it online. Unfortunately, for reasons known only to themselves, no where seems to actually sell it. So, rather than give up, or put the challenge on hold until such time as I discover the Cecil recording, I went on a hunt for a suitable alternative.
It’s a popular story, and armies of folks seem to have had a go at bashing out a copy. In order to narrow down my choice, I filtered by readers I’ve heard of, then by readers who I’ve listened to myself. The stand-out winner was Stephen Fry, who recently produced several volumes of his favourite Wodehouse stories for Audible. Volume 1 contains over 40 hours worth of Jeeves and Wooster stories, just over 8 hours of which was dedicated to ‘The Code of the Woosters’.
As you will remember, when we left Gussy Fink-Nottle and Madeline Basset at the end of ‘Right Ho, Jeeves’ everything looked rosy. Unfortunately, before heading up the isle for a life of wedded bliss, it was only natural that Madeline introduced Gussy to her father. The dreaded Sir Watkin Basset was less than impressed by his prospective sun-in-law. Nor did he go down well with their long time family friend and wanna-be dictator Roderick Spode. When you add in Stiffy Bing, the Rev. Stinker Pinker, aunt Dahlia, and an antique silver cow creamer, it was no surprise that Bertie ended up in yet another tight spot that only Jeeves could get him out of.
Many reviewers rate ‘The Code of the Woosters’ as the very best of all the stories. It would be premature of me to join them since I’ve still got plenty more to listen to, but I will go as far as saying that the rest of the series will need to work hard to top it. I think it’s definitely fair to say that, by the time he wrote ‘The Code of the Woosters’, Wodehouse had most definitely hit his stride as a full-length story writer. The book lacked nothing in terms of plot and witty wordplay. The writing was sharp, the twists and turns didn’t disappoint, and the characters were hilarious.
As for performance, Stephen Fry did an excellent job. Unfortunately I missed Jonathan Cecil. I’ve always said that, at least for me, his voice is synonymous with Bertie Wooster, and this book proved it. It was a great recording, but I have added “Seek out a version of ‘The Code of the Woosters’ read by Jonathan Cecil’ to my to do list and I will keep searching for it to add to my collection.
In conclusion, this was a great story, read well. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it, with the only proviso being that if you come across the Jonathan Cecil version, try that one instead (after dropping me an email letting me know where I can get a copy first).