Saturday, January 11, 2014
#2 [2014-CBR6] "The Adventures of Sally" by P.G. Wodehouse
As soon as I started reading The Adventures of Sally, it was like a refreshing breath of air. Gone was the pretentious, wordy preaching of Thoreau and instead I was thrown into the clever and quick dialogue and descriptions of Sally and her friends. Only one page in, and I knew I would finish this book.
Sally Nicholas has just turned twenty-one and come into her small inheritance of $25,000. This book follows Sally for a short time as she travels to Europe, meets new people, and deals with her [often, a problem] brother Fillmore.
In some ways, Wodehouse's writing reminded me of Jane Austen, and I was thrilled to find another author like her that I could enjoy. The plot of Sally's life isn't particularly exciting, but the writing is often funny, unique and insightful, making the small details of Sally's life more delightful than they would be in the hands of someone else. Sally was a great character, with personality and wit. I was also impressed by the primarily sympathetic portrayal of a woman protagonist in the 1920's. "Success! How men worshipped it, and how little of themselves they had to spare for anything else...There might be a woman in each of their lives, but she came second--an afterthought--a thing for their spare time." (78)
Although I was reminded of Austen when I began reading, this illusion didn't hold through the whole book. Wodehouse's characters were all heightened to a degree that emphasized humor over realism. It felt more like watching a sitcom on television than a BBC Austen movie. I didn't know anything about the book or plot going in, but the tone let me in on the secret that all would turn out well in the end. Also, any man that Sally happened to meet, fell in love with her immediately. There were too many happy coincidences that kept the plot moving, but kept me from believing this was even close to reality. However, I did get attached to Sally and her friends, and I wanted the best for her.
SPOILERS: The only part that really bothered me was Sally's actions near the end of the book. Because of her helpful and sympathetic nature, she ends up out of money near the end of the book and she's forced to go back to working as a taxi dancer to earn a living. While in these desperate straits, Mr. Carmyle, a man she always disliked, shows up and she agrees to marry him. Podehouse almost made that scene half believable, but Sally never cared about money and she wasn't too concerned when she lost hers. She would never marry someone she actively disliked--for money or desperation. The only reason this was in the book was to manufacture drama, which was unnecessary. Immediately after she agrees, she sees her true love and realizes her mistake, but she refuses to break the engagement because she "promised."
Seriously? This is a smart woman who is practical and doesn't care for pretension. Isn't it better to break a promise than make three people miserable for the rest of their lives? Of course, everything works out in the end, but Sally is entirely passive and lucky. She makes some ridiculous choices and fate seems to bump in and help her out. It would be like Elizabeth Becket agreeing to marry Mr. Collins and refusing to break the engagement when she realizes her mistake. Ugh. A disappointing ending for a likable character.
I enjoyed reading the book, but Sally was so frustrating in the end that I'm bumping it down from four to three stars. I will, however, be reading some more books by P.G. Wodehouse in the future.