I finished listening to P.G. Wodehouse’s novel Hot Water the other day and became further convinced that listening to a book is fundamentally different than reading it, because while I loved listening to this book, I’m not sure I would have liked it any other way. Perhaps this is because Hot Water is not Wodehouse’s best — it doesn’t have Wooster and Jeeves — but I suspect that even at his best a little Wodehouse would go a long way for me in book form. On audio, though, he’s highly entertaining and funny.
I won’t bother to tell you much about the plot, except that it contains two sets of lovers who are woefully mismatched, a group of scoundels and thieves, a group of aristocrats who are scoundrels and thieves, one aristocrat pretending to be a servant, and an assortment of servants, some of whom are not servants at all. They all eventually descend upon a chateau in France, some in search of jewels to steal, others in search of an incriminating, blackmail-worthy letter, and others simply in search of fun. It all culminates in a funny scene where some people get what they want, while others slink off in shame, and the lovers get themselves properly sorted out.
It’s all funny and satisfying and completely predictable. You’ll find lots of clichés — the impossible-to-please father; the greedy social climber who is hiding a secret past; the high-minded, cultured, snooty young woman who is thoroughly dull; the young athletic American who can’t keep himself out of trouble; the hard-drinking brutish French aristocrat; the burgler with principles and delicate scruples. In book form, all this might have irritated me, and I might have wondered why I was spending my time on it. When I want light reading, I don’t usually go for this sort. But it was perfect for listening to in the car. Everything is funnier when I’m listening as opposed to reading it, and a brisk pace and lots of action is always good.
The quality of an audiobook usually comes down to the quality of the reader, and this reader was excellent — it was Jonathan Cecil, and he did a marvelous job with all the accents, which included not only various sorts of English people and a standard American accent, but also a Brooklyn accent and a number of different faked French accents. It was fun just listening to him switch from voice to voice (which makes me wonder how exactly these things get put together — do they read it all straight through, do they do bits and pieces and splice them together, do they do one character’s lines at a time?).
I’m not sure if my library has any more Wodehouse, but if they do, I’ll probably be checking them out.