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Service With A Smile (2013)

Service With a Smile (2013)
4.14 of 5 Votes: 1
0393345963 (ISBN13: 9780393345964)
w. w. norton & company
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Service With A Smile (2013)
Service With A Smile (2013)

About book: I read Galahad at Blandings a couple months ago to balance out the continent of words that is Les Miserables. Service With a Smile could serve no such altruistic purpose and therefore had no right to be read as soon as it was.But I finished reading a couple of good, but serious (and a little self-serious) reads--nothing along the line of Victor Hugo, per se, but certainly not happy-go-lucky. I’m reading a book or two on my iPad, but something has got to fill the cargo pants pocket that isn’t an electronic device. Service With a Smile fit the bill perfectly--or should I say, fit the pocket?I had no real intention of reading it, just having it on hand for emergencies. Well, by the time I started walking home from school, I realized that it wasn’t an emergency, it was just the need for something solid in my hands. And within the first three paragraphs, I had giggled until I had to stop and admire the enchanting wording. Those same three paragraphs would probably elicit nothing more than a rogue smile out of most people … yet, to me, I was immersed.Therein lies the strength or weakness of Wodehouse, however you choose to see it. His characters are fairly well set, a disadvantage if you’re looking for stark creativity after you’ve read a couple. On the other hand, his characters are fairly well set, an advantage if you absolutely love them and could read about them going to visit a pig in its sty for an entire novel (not quite what happens here, but what most often made me happy).That’s why I found myself so delighted to re-enter the world of Blandings, and especially to do so with Lord Emsworth. So many other characters take center stage in Wodehouse’s stories, but Lord Emsworth shuffles absent-mindedly around the peripheries and simply makes me grin at the very thought of his simple, aristocratic, one-track (pig) mind existence. Oh, give me more of Lord Emsworth, Wodehouse, by continuing to give me less of him!Anyway, the story for this time around is unfailingly convoluted, with the meddler/well-intentioned fixer being played by hammock-dweller Lord Ickenham, or Uncle Fred. Amidst this constantly swelling and turning, plot-twisting non-adventure-adventure, are the mainstays of impossible love and tyrannical control of children through inheritance. This time around, the main couple is Myra Schoonmaker (daughter of American millionaire, James) and Bill Bailey (a.k.a. Cuthbert Meriwether from Brazil, or the Curate-who-once-was-a-boxer). Taking supporting roles are Miss Lavender Briggs (either evil incarnate--if you’re Lord Emsworth all secretaries are the bane of his existence--or enterprising entrepreneur of a proposed typewriting business). Lady Constance serves as the horrifically sane sister to Lord Emsworth, then there are a smattering of other characters such as the traitorous but skilled pig-keeper, George Cyril Wellbeloved, Lord Tilbury the self-made (i.e. disreputable to landed gentry) newspaper magnate, Emsworth’s far too prepubescent grandson George, with Archie Gilpin, poor but dashingly handsome and haired artist, and Pongo Twistleton, beleaguered nephew to Uncle Fred, taking some cameos. Wrapping up the cast is the dastardly and tight villain, who does not feel as if his welcome will ever be worn out--though his hearing has long ago--Duke of Dunstable, and the nightmarish church lads camping out near poor Lord Emsworth’s lake.Had this been the first Blandings book I had read, I would have enjoyed it. Having read other Blandings books before it, I loved it--already smitten before even getting into it.Where are you on that spectrum? I’d say that either enjoying it or loving it are both good prospects. My recommendation is to get into Blandings. After doing so, you can thank me for my invaluable service … service that I offer with a smile--enough for both of us.

The ninth Earl of Emsworth was becoming like a man besieged at Blandings Castle. As if it wasn't bad enough having to share his country pile on a permanent basis with his bossy sister Lady Constance Keeble, he also now had to share it with the most ruthlessly efficient secretary ever to darken his door, the rigidly prim Miss Lavender Briggs, as well as the noisy and spirited boys of the Church Lads' Brigade.Perhaps worst still was the seemingly interminable presence of the Duke of Dunstable, a bellowing and unmannered blister in a walrus mustache who was convinced that the absent-minded earl was in fact 'potty', and whose continued residence at Blandings had the popularity 'roughly that of a shark at a bathing resort'.Even having the pretty young daughter of a rich American friend, Myra Schoonmaker, grace the halls and massuages of his estate for a season wasn't helping to lift the gloom, for some misfortune in love had given her eyes 'something of the sadness one sees in those of a dachshund which, coming to the dinner table to get its ten percent, is refused a cut off the joint.'No, what he needs is a friend to exercise their grey cells to sweep away the grey clouds on his behalf, where upon the earl can get back his peace and once again enjoy the company of the true apple of his eye, the Empress of Blandings, his thrice prize winning pig in the Fat Pigs class at the Shropshire Agricultural Show. What he needs are the services of Frederick Altamont Cornwallis Twistleton, fifth earl of Ickenham, 'Uncle Fred', that aged but spry dispenser of sweetness and light. And so he comes to Blandings again, squarely as himself this time around, though he can't resist taking along at least one impostor with him for the duration.I don't think I give much away by letting on that the Empress's liberty is again placed at stake, hearts are expertly de-sundered and the addle-headed Emsworth makes an ass of himself in a typically pleasing potpourri from Wodehouse, though the plot did lack some of the polish of some of the other entries in the series.
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In this visit to Blandings Castle, we find the Duke of Dunstable plotting to steal the Empress, a new and insufferable secretary and, to cap it all, the Church Lads' Brigade are camped all over the lawns. It's a lot for the Earl of Emsworth to cope with, but he doesn't have to do it alone. That general do-gooder, and all round nice guy, the Earl of Ickenham, aka Uncle Fred, is ready and willing to provide service with a smile.Light, fluffy, funny and a balm to the soul, reading a Wodehouse novel is always a joy, and this is no exception. While I'm not as familiar with Uncle Fred or the inmates of Blandings as I am with Jeeves and Wooster, I've read some (and watched the BBC TV series) and it's always nice to get better acquainted with them.
S Prakash
Idyllic settings; Lords and Dukes; minimum of 3-4 engagements, only to be broken with the same speed; clever buttlers; stupid aristocrats. Nothing can be more stress busting than a quick tour into Wodehouse's quirky and comical world. Higly recommended to read one after every dozen or so of serious stuff. Here it is all about saving Lord Emsworth' prized pig. Yes you have read it right, its about Empress, the fat,lovely and royal pig; the object of desire of the rich and a subject of scheming for the theives, buttlers and Dukes. Only Wodehouse can weave non stop ruccus around a simple, docile and a beautiful animal like a pig.
Ian Laird
PG Wodehouse is so highly regarded by many readers that there must be something to him.But having read only two, Dr Sally and this one Service with a Smile, I find myself thinking these stories are enjoyable, well written, contain some amusing lines and pass the time amiably enough. Other people see much more. I may have to delve further and find out what draws such devotion from others. This is in part, a pig story. Lord Ickenham (Uncle Fred), with ‘Cuthbert’ (really Bill Bailey) in tow, goes to Blandings Castle, presided over by Lady Constance who provides guidance to her brother Clarence, Lord Emsworth, whose singular focus is directed towards the wellbeing and comfort of the Empress, an enormous prize-winning sow, in turn the object of nefarious criminal designs by among others, the Duke of Dunstable, conspicuously lacking in social skills, who spends his time in stately homes, usually uninvited. Dunstable’s potential buyer is Lord Tilbury, a crass newspaper magnate.Another of Lady Constance’s guests is Myra, the daughter of Lady Constance’s American friend James Schoonmaker. Myra is in love with Bill Bailey, but their togetherness is being thwarted by Lady Constance, who in turn is enamoured of Myra’s father. There are boundless sub plots, involving the ambitious and snobby secretary Lavender, small ratty boys camping on the estate and Lord Dunstable’s nephew who finds himself much too engaged for complete happiness. Lord Ickenham sorts all this out, ingeniously enough.What strikes me forcefully is that this story is set comfortably among the nobility who, if not necessarily the idle rich, certainly have a lot of time for their avocational activities, which of course gives Lord Ickenham the time and opportunity to set straight the course of matters romantic, bucolic and financial. The setting and milieu also belong to a time long ago and probably never existed exactly in the way Wodehouse sets out, but that is not the point. This is an entertainment, a gentle and amusing farce where the bad mannered and venal people are out witted by the gracious and attractive. Quite satisfying on that level.
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