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.
7 responses to “Hot Water”
We’ve found that P. G. Wodehouse is great in-car entertainment. My son feels a bit too grown-up now for children’s books and Wodehouse somehow fills a perfect gap. I know what you mean about the pleasure of listening to him rather than reading him – I think I feel the same way.
Oh this sound like great fun! Almost makes makes me wish I had a car commute. Almost. 🙂 I’ll have to tell my husband about this one since he listens to audiobooks on the bus in winter so he doesn’t have to try and turn the pages with his mittens on.
I have an entire collection of Wodehouse and I think he’s great fun to read – I don’t grab his books often enough, though, when I want something lighthearted and bitingly funny. I agree with you about audio books, there are some authors more suited to them than others.
Wodehouse is definitely funnier when read aloud. After listening to several novels on long trips, I now refuse to deal with him any other way!
Litlove — I can see how Wodehouse would fit in nicely after children’s books have been left behind — he’s for adults definitely, but he still has an adolescent kind of humor …
Stefanie — audio books don’t make a car commute worth while, but they do make it a little nicer! This book definitely makes good bus reading or listening — highly recommended!
Verbivore — oh, how interesting that you have a Wodehouse collection! He is fun. I’ll have to try him in book form sometime, just to see what I think. I suspect audio might stay my preferred form though …
Chartroose — the reader definitely added to the experience — it was great hearing the dialogue spoken out loud. Much funnier that way.
Seems maybe I ought to try listening to Wodehouse. I’ve recently been thinking I’d like to re-read him, and I’ve enjoyed “re-reading” other books in this way.
I’ve only read one Wodehouse story, which was great fun, but I do sort of think that a little Wodehouse might go a long way! He would definitely be fun to listen to (especially with a talented reader like this one sounds), so I’ll be looking in my library catalog for some of his work to listen to, too!