P.G. Wodehouse, Free books!, Amazon, and Hats-in-Church

1.  I have homeschooler’s syndrome.  How do you pronounce “Wodehouse”, as in, P.G.?

2. I know there’s a great debate afoot about whether Catholics ought to buy books on Amazon.  Here’s what I’ve decided thus far: Free books don’t count.

3. I come from a family of undertakers, which might explain why I so enjoy a good funeral.  In that same morbid vein, check this out: P.G. Wodehouse’s books are slowly going out of copyright.  (I do the math for you: = Free Books!)

So you are asking yourself: Why should I read P.G. Wodehouse?

The answer, of course, is because it’s like Downton Abbey, only without the self-importance. Also, it’s funny, true, beautiful, and good.  Primarily: Funny.

Persuaded?  Yes?

Say yes.

Now you are asking yourself: But with which book should I begin??

I will do exhaustive research for you, but it will take time.  Meanwhile, may I suggest Uneasy Money?


Here are my reasons:

1) It’s a self-contained story.  I know that the Jeeves series is the seminal work, but it’s easy to get lost in all the loose ends being picked up from episode to episode in the J&W books.  Uneasy Money stands on its own.

2) When you read Jeeves and Wooster, sometimes the pacing bogs down a bit.  Uneasy Money doesn’t slow down so much, since it’s a true romance, and not just a steady flow of avoidance-of-romance slapstick.

3) Wodehouse really shows off his knack for characterization in UM, in a way that gets lost in J&W.  It’s the difference between being out on the ocean in a raft and being pretty sure the ocean’s quite deep . . . versus actually diving under and seeing how far the water goes.

4) There aren’t that many romances told from the guy’s point of view.

So you get all the insight and a fair share of the humor of J&W, only with a tighter plot and more depth.  Worth a look.

So.  Hats in Church.

Next you ask yourself: What could reading Wodehouse contribute to our understanding of the Mantilla Wars?

Start by taking a look at this timely image over at our hostess Julie D.’s personal blog.  See? Lady in a hat.

Now here’s the other reason you need to read Uneasy Money:  At the very end, there’s a little sequence in which the author, man of his time, drops in a plot-speck* about hats.  Wodehouse knows nothing of the future furor over hats-in-church.  Wodehouse does not write like a modern romance writer, with long passages about What She Was Wearing and What That Tells Us About Her.  He’s a guy.  An early 20th-century guy. She’s either got clothes on or she doesn’t — pretty  much a binary reading of the female wardrobe.

But watch closely at the end of UM, and you get to see how utterly differently the world was, in terms of hats, a hundred years ago.


*A plot-speck is to a plot-point what a little bit of bacon is to a lot of bacon.  It doesn’t have to be big, it’s still bacon.  It matters.

About Jennifer Fitz

Jennifer Fitz is the author of Classroom Management for Catechists, and general editor of the Catholic Writers Guild blog. In addition to her pile of Catholic writing for Patheos, you can find her at CatholicMom.com, New Evangelizers, and Amazing Catechists. When she isn't blogging, teaching, or complaining about something, she likes to play outside.

  • http://www.splendoroftruth.com/curtjester curtjester

    I am a big Wodehouse fan. I can’t think of a book of his I read I didn’t like, even the golf stories. Even though Wodehouse is so formulaic he makes the same formula work brilliantly every time. 1) boy meets girl 2) Problem keeps them separated 3) Problem resolved in often comedic fashion. Come to think of it this is pretty much the patter for all of his books, though in the case of the Jeeves novels they contain that but also it’s antithesis of Bertie running away from a romantic entanglement.

    Project Gutenberg also has a large selection since so many are out of copyright and they have them in multiple ebook formats.


  • woden325

    To answer your first point, it’s pronounced “Wood house.” I love the Jeeves and Wooster stories, but have had a hard time getting into some of his standalone plots. Maybe I’ll try again.

  • Will Duquette

    “wood house” :-)

  • Will Duquette

    P.G. Wodehouse is the second greatest author of the 20th century, after Tolkien, IMHO. Effortless prose like his seems so easy, but it ain’t. Jennifer, trying reading it aloud!

  • Katie in FL

    Love this! Just got some for my Kindle. Thanks!

  • Jennifer Fitz

    Woodhouse. I can say that. Thanks guys! Jeff, thanks for the links, and Will, I’m not sure I could read Wodehouse aloud . . . I’d laugh too much.

    Woden, in my continued mission, I found a few stories that weren’t as interesting to me — I think it depended on whether the basic plot/setting appealed. Interestingly, the ones that were sort of boring were the ones set in schoolboy world — not romantic plots at all (Ha! Jeff! An exception to your rule!), and since I never was a boy in boarding school, maybe didn’t resonate with me so much, go figure.