If the world has recovered from football fever and inched away from Wimbledon, can I interest anyone in some cricket? A review about a book by cricket enthusiast and the gold standard of humor writing – P.G.Wodehouse.
Title – Mike and Psmith
Author – P.G.Wodehouse
Genre – Fiction, humor
“Mike” was a novel published by Wodehouse in 1909 and first appeared in the magazine The Captain in two parts – Jackson Junior and The Lost Lambs. These were republished years later as Mike at Wrykyn and Mike and Psmith in 1953. The second book marks the first appearance of the popular character of Psmith.
“Mike and Psmith” begins with Mike Jackson, set to take over as captain of his school cricket team. The only hurdle being his grades are not on par with his athletic endeavors, causing his father to withdraw him from his old school Wrykyn and admit the boy to Sedleigh – a smaller school known more for academics than sports. On arrival at Sedleigh, Mike meets his eccentric roommate Rupert Psmith – another new student who left the superior school Eton, and similar to Mike was enrolled into Sedleigh against his wishes.
The book takes us through the adventures of the duo as they find their place in the new school. Both share a common hatred for Sedleigh- which they consider an inferior school – and refuse to partake in any of the activities or mingle with other students, with the exception of an “archaeological society” formed by a teacher which students use as an excuse to wander outside school premises on the pretext of “finding fossils” with “fossil fancier” Mr. Outwood. Mike and Psmith find themselves facing off against students and teachers, on account of their unwillingness to contribute to Sedleigh.
Wodehouse sheds light on typical school situations – issues faced by students in fitting into a new school, being popular at one’s old school but having to start from scratch in a new place, misunderstandings with fellow students, taking a stand and not succumbing to bullying, standing up for others, playing pranks on students and teachers, skipping classes and exploring the vicinity, academics versus extracurricular activities, and most important of all – the sense of belonging. Students are defined by their alma mater – is it more important to join a well known school, or make your school well known through your achievements?
For those who have read books by P.G.Wodehouse, you would be aware of the laugh riot his characters are. Psmith went on to become one of the most hilarious characters created by Wodehouse and featured in many more books. For the uninitiated, Psmith is pronounced as Smith – the ‘P’ being silent. The eccentric character devised the spelling change since Smith was too simplistic and he didn’t fancy Smythe.
At it’s heart, Mike and Psmith is a school story and a tale of friendship, set around the sport of cricket. Replete with entertainment from each of it’s characters, the plot takes us through how the two primary anti-Sedleigh characters become pro-Sedleigh – the binding factor being cricket. Wodehouse’s interest, knowledge and experience in the sport is beautifully highlighted in the very descriptive scenes of the matches. Those familiar with the sport will be appreciative of this sporting novel filled with humor. Even readers without an interest in cricket will be gripped by the writing – a P.G.Wodehouse book is always pure gold.
You can be assured of having a jolly good time reading this book. The figures of speech are excellent and even simple statements can have you bursting out with laughter.
~ “It made him feel that somebody had substituted for his brain a side order of cauliflower.”
~ “It seemed as if Fate had a special grudge against his best friends.”
~ “The spectacle of Psmith running was a most unusual sight. His usual mode of progression was a dignified walk. He believed in the contemplative style rather than the hustling.”
~ “Mike, when masters waxed sarcastic toward him, always assumed an air of stolid stupidity, which was as a suit of mail against satire.”
~ “The air was full of the scent of the cut grass which lay in little heaps behind the nets. This is the real cricket scent, which calls to one like the very voice of the game.”
And of course, the tennets of wisdom from Psmith himself:
~ “The jam Comrade Outwood supplies to us at tea is all right as a practical joke or as food for those anxious to commit suicide, but useless to anybody who values life.”
~ “One of the Georges, I forget which, once said that a certain number of hours – I cannot recall for the moment how many – made a man something, which for the time being has slipped my memory. However, there you are. I’ve given you the main idea of the thing.”
~ “We are essentially versatile. Jackson, the archaeologist of yesterday, becomes the cricketer of today.”
~ “But what steps are you going to take? Spiller, the man of Logic, we know. But what of Spiller, The man of Action?”
~ “Let me introduce you to Comrade Jackson. I am Psmith. Your own name will doubtless come up in the course of general chitchat over the teacups.”
A delightful read that will have you chuckling throughout and reminiscing about schooldays. I usually don’t review Wodehouse books, because my poor literary skills in reviewing are no match for the witty and charming penmanship of the writer himself. But bally well go ahead and read this one if you haven’t already. Right Ho!
My Rating – 5/5