Anatomy of a Book: Leave it to Psmith, by PG Wodehouse

Fifty-odd years of serene and unruffled placidity had given Lord Emsworth a curiously moss-covered look. (p.9)

We are introduced to Lord Emsworth.

‘Hear you’ve lost your glasses, guv’nor.’ (p.11)

We are introduced to Freddie Threepwood, and his language.

Her eyes were large and grey, and gentle – and incidentally misleading, for gentle was hardly the adjective which anybody who knew her would have applied to Lady Constance. (p.14)

And we are introduced to Lady Constance. It is not until much later that we are introduced to the book’s lead character, Psmith.

‘The p, I should add for your guidance, is silent, as in phthisis, psychic, and ptarmigan. You follow me?’ (p.35)

It is unusual to have the lead introduced late, however this blip on the routine story sequence would be allowed by the reader for the following reasons.

Changing Status:

There are imposters at Blandings Castle, acting as more important people than they claim as robbery is a motive for some. Will they be found out?

High Stakes:

There are consequences to being uncovered as frauds, plus the romances and relationships of almost everyone are intertwined, whether they know this or not, and, in what will become a continual theme of Wodehouse novels, the challenge of ‘..love would come after marriage.’ (p.184) is posed at a point of antiquated English values.

Page Turner:

Events do unfold rapidly, and while the traditional story structure is loose, the joy of the writing allows for the reader to wish to continue reading.

Believable Characters:

This is Blandings Castle, all the characters have flaws which other people either admire or fear, yet each is not convinced of their own flaws, thus they are true to themselves and are also endearing. Being human is to have flaws, and so the reader can relate to the flawed, and enjoy the results of the character’s interactions within the society they exist.

Educate:

It must be highlighted that this is the first novel by Wodehouse. There is much he shows over the course of his books, including when and how to use terms such as: gosh, old thing, I say, rummy, a bit off, golly! and (from p.184) pip-pip, toodle-oo, what!, and right-ho!

All the Wodehouse books are ‘Splendid!’ said the young man, flicking a speck of dust from his coat-sleeve. ‘Splendid! Splendid!’ (p.35)

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2 thoughts on “Anatomy of a Book: Leave it to Psmith, by PG Wodehouse

  1. Lovely piece. Regarding the later introduction of Psmith, he had been introduced in previous novels so much of Wodehouse’s audience would be familiar with him already.

    1. Hey, thanks. Oddly the records I had at the time said Leave it to Psmith was Wodehouse’s first book. Happy to be proved wrong. It means there’s more to read.

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