“The authorities in charge of human affairs have decreed, no doubt for some excellent reason, that interior decorators as a class shall look simply terrible. Possibly the thought behind this was that if they were beautiful as well as talented, the mixture would be too rich.” – p 31
I had heard of P.G. Wodehouse, but never read anything by him until a fellow reviewer suggested I should. And, having no rhyme or reason to which Wodehouse book to read, I chose the one with the oddest title. This book actually goes by another name than the one I have. It has been re-released with the title “Company for Henry.”
Comments I’ve received when mentioning I’m reading a Wodehouse book have all followed a similar strain – “He’s so…British!” Sometimes this was meant in a good way, sometimes in a bad. But I have to say I heartily agree. He is a very British author. (Possibly because he was born in Britain???) Most Americans I’ve come in contact with mean one of two things if they label it “British” in nature (other than originating in Britain). First – that it is very staunch, outwardly unemotional, and proper. Second – it is very silly and hard for them to understand at times (such as Monty Python or Fawlty Towers). Wodehouse (@ least this novel) falls in the latter category.
“Marriage is not a process for prolonging the life of love. It merely mummifies the corpse.” – p 73
This novel is not a mystery. However, it has enough plot twists to possibly qualify as one. An inside out mystery, possibly – where you know whodunnit and there is no maliciousness involved. Henry is the owner of a rather gaudy and painful looking country house named Ashby Hall. It has been in his family for years, and due to certain legal restrictions, he is unable to sell valuable parts of family history despite the fact that he owes a great deal of money to certain parties. He has been joined by his lovely and level-headed niece, Jane. Jane is engaged to an interior designer who has been in the Americas for some time – named Lionel. Jane also has a lackabout brother named Algy, who is always coming up with get rich quick schemes. (With me so far?) Algy has been mooching off his friend, Bill, who looks rather intimidating but has a heart of gold. Also in this comedy are the characters of Wendell Stickney – a distant relative of Henry’s who is an American and collects French paperweights. Wendell has an Aunt who lives with him named Kelly – who used to be a showgirl in her single days.
Henry is hoping to sell Ashby Hall to Stickney, in order to get the monstrosity off his hands and to be able to pay his debts. Algy is trying to foist money out of Bill, who has come into a modest inheritance. And Stickney is trying to learn about his family line in any way he can. Jane is trying to keep Algy and Henry from being thrown in jail and making fools of themselves. Kelly is just along for the ride.
When Stickney discovers a valuable French paperweight in the Ashby Hall contents, he decides he must have it, no matter what. He, Kelly, and Henry concoct a plan to sell the paperweight to Stickney while making it look to the authorities as if it were stolen. All would seem to go according to plan until people start falling in love, getting mistaken for insurance auditor’s agents, and start trying to work to their own ends alongside the original plan.
Wodehouse manages to keep you delightfully confused for the majority of the novel, as the characters dance unconscious circles around each other – making the plot thicken and intensify with every step. I highly commend my friend for recommending this novel to me and definitely recommend you, reader, check out a Wodehouse novel at your earliest convenience.
The Purloined Paperweight (Company for Henry) was published in 1967, and written by P.G. Wodehouse.