P.G. Wodehouse,
The Adventures of Sally
(Herbert Jenkins, 1922;
World Library Classics, 2009)

I want to know Sally Nicholas. I want her in my circle of friends.

That, of course, is impossible. She lived in the early 1900s, and she's not actually real, having leapt, fully formed, from the fertile mind of P.G. Wodehouse.

Wodehouse, best remembered for his comical Wooster & Jeeves stories, was a literary mastermind, with an unparalled command of the English language. (Read the scene where two characters are stuck in a lift for a prime example.) The Adventures of Sally -- written and set in the 1920s -- is an honest-to-goodness pleasure to read.

Not laugh-out-loud funny like some of his books, Sally builds an easy familiarity with its characters and maintains a genuine light-hearted air throughout. Even when circumstances turn grim and unpleasant fellows loom in her path, Sally bulls through life with good will and a great heart.

Sally is a young New Yorker, newly come into modest wealth. Her immediate circle includes her brother, Fillmore, who is a bit pompous in good times (which aren't a regular thing), her fiance, Gerald Foster, a budding playwright whose measure of success doesn't necessarily include a wife, and the denizens of her small, friendly boardinghouse. Then there is Lancelot "Ginger" Kemp, an Englishman whom she meets on a French holiday, and his moody, oddly motivated cousin, Bruce Carmyle.

If Sally had been less pretty, Mr. Carmyle would undoubtedly have looked disapprovingly at her, for she had given his rather rigid sense of the proprieties a nasty jar. But as, panting and flushed from her run, she was prettier than any girl he had yet met, he contrived to smile.

Their adventures are a treat, the action flows smoothly, and anyone who enjoys good literature should take a look. You're only cheating yourself if you don't.

book review by
Tom Knapp

29 January 2011

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