Dec 29, 2009

Woodson, Wodehouse and Beagle

This post is an attempt to catch up with book blabbing so that I don't start 2010 with 2009 books I've yet to tell you about. Of course, it won't work, because since I first drafted it I finished three more books. But that's a good thing - an excellent thing, actually, after a few weeks of barely even reading - so I won't complain.

If You Come Softly by Jacqueline WoodsonFirst of all, let me tell you about If You Come Softly by Jacqueline Woodson. Almost everyone who reads that book says it made them cry, and no, I'm not going to be an exception. It really amazes me how Woodson can pack so much into such short books.

A brief summary: Ellie is a white Jewish upper-middle class girl from New York. Jeremiah, the son of a famous movie director and an equally famous writer, is black. They meet in highschool and fall in love. And very soon, Ellie is confronted with the invisible knapsack. Things that she didn't think happened anymore, not in our day and age, not in her circle of tolerant, sophisticated family members and friends, become undeniable as she and Miah grow closer. That's not all there is to the story, but I really can't tell you more without spoiling the shattering ending. Just... Woodson is amazing. Her characterization is great, her writing is lovely and extremely effective, and her themes are powerful, raw, and all too relevant. For other opinions, check out Alexa's, Jill's, Amy's and Lu's reviews.

My Man Jeeves by P.G. WodehouseNext I read My Man Jeeves, my very first P.G. Wodehouse. This is an early Wodehouse book, collecting four Jeeves and Wooster stories and four stories featuring Reggie Pepper, who I hear was an early incarnation of Wooster. I enjoyed My Man Jeeves, but the fact that it's an early collection definitely shows. Let me start with the good: I loved the humour, of course, as well as the language, which is full of "whats!" and "chaps" and "deucedly"s. And I can see that the characters have the potential to become outstanding and memorable.

But the problem is that for me they weren't; not quite yet. I guess I expected more, but I'm not worried. I will continue to read Wodehouse and I'm pretty certain I will become a fan yet. Terry Pratchett has often cited Wodehouse as one of his influences, and I can't imagine anyone who only reads The Colour of Magic being able to understand what Discworld is all about. I think that's more or less what happened with me and My Man Jeeves. (See what Darla D and Book Psmith thought.)

A Dance for Emilia by Peter S. BeagleFinally, on Christmas Day I read Peter S. Beagle's lovely A Dance for Emilia, which probably qualifies as a novellete. The story opens when Jacob, a middle-aged actor living on the West Coast, gets a phone call telling him that Sam, his childhood friend from New York, has died suddenly. I don't want to tell you much more than this because this is such a quick read, and one that it's best to discover on your own. I can say that the plot has some fantasy elements - I guess this could be qualified as a ghost story. But it's not scary, nor is it meant to be. What makes A Dance for Emilia so beautiful is the human side. As always, Peter Beagle's writing and characterization are top notch, and anyone who has ever dealt with loss of any kind will most likely find this story worth reading. A Dance for Emilia is a gentle ghost story, but most of all it's a study of loss, grief, and ultimately the decision to carry on with our lives, even after we lost something we never thought we could live without.

That's all for now. I do want to tell you about two amazing non-fiction books - Cold by Bill Streever and The World Without Us by Alan Weisman, and also about why I'm the newest member of the Mary Russell fanclub. But those all deserve long gushy posts of their own, so they'll have to wait until the New Year. And before that, I'll be back with a Challenges I'm Joining in 2010 Despite Saying I Would Cut Back Post of Doom.

(As always, if you've posted about any of these books, leave me your link and I'll be happy to add it.)


  1. I think I'll read a not quite so early Wodehouse to start with. I have The Code of Woosters coming to me finally. Yay! Plus i have Carry On Jeeves on my shelf.

    My solution for not starting 2010 talking about books read in 2009 was to stop reading books a week ago. I've only been rereading books that I already read/reviewed in 2009, so that there's no need to report them. That is effectively keeping my stats static. :D

  2. Smart plan to make a bookblabbingblogpost ;) I should do that! As a matter of fact I have been thinking about that relating to my challenge books... this review backlog is hanging quite heavily on my shoulders.

    I look forward to more of these posts coming from you the next few days :)

  3. I love Woodson. She is such a great author. I read Locomotion and cried like a baby. I definitely plan on reading more of her next year.

    Are you going to add The Beekeeper's Apprentice and The World Without Us to your favorites list? ;)

  4. Amanda: Definitely a good idea about Jeeves! And I'd do that too, but I barely read the whole month, so I'm making up for the lost time :P

    Gnoe: Not sure if there will be sure since I really want to blab about those other books at length, but it was good to kill 3 birds with one stone :P

    Vasilly: I kind of want to - especially Cold, actually, which was seriously amazing. But maybe I'll count the books I read after this year's list was up for next year's :P What's a day or two, after all?

  5. Definitely do give Wodehouse another shot – his books are HILARIOUS if you can catch on to the humor. :)

  6. I had a similar reaction to Wodehouse. I've only ever read Joy in the Morning, a Jeeves book. I need to give him another chance.

  7. Gah! If You Come Softly *killed* me with sadness. Thank you for the link :)

    For some reason I've had no interest in reading PG Wodehouse and have really just heard of him. Not sure it's something I'll be reading any time soon. I should really do one of these posts. I have quite a few reviews backlogged!

  8. I've never heard of Woodson but your review makes me want to check it out. So glad you've discovered Woodhouse. His books are my comfort read.

  9. yippee for blogblogblabbering! Funny how just seeing the Woodson cover made me think "uh oh, SAD."

  10. I will say it time and time again, Jaqueline Woodson is my fav. arthor. Did you know that at her website you can give her a shout out email, letting her know how much you love her books. I did and I got a response...she even answered a few questions I had about writing.

    Oh, love your much to explore.

  11. I definitely want to read If You Come Softly even though I'm sure it will move me to tears as well. And I have yet to read Wodehouse so I have a few on my list for 2010. My list is so long that I need to take the year off work so I have time to read everything! :)

  12. Oooh, I really need to sneak in If You Come Softly soon. It's pretty short, right? So hopefully...

    And A Dance for Emilia sounds really good, too!

    I can't wait to see your "post of doom"!!! :D

  13. Perhaps I need to do and write a post to sum up the last three books I have read before the end of year. We have just been inundated with visitors the last few days that I can't seem to get time to write a post. I haven't read any P.G. Wodehouse, but I think they are definitely ones I would like to try. The first books sounds really good if not sad.

  14. I went through a Wodehouse binge years ago but the actual books are a bit of a blur. The series with Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry, which I saw before ever reading the books, is an absolute riot--well worth seeking out.

    And I must let out an advance squeeee at your expression of Mary Russell love. That made two posts in a row in my Google Reader from folks who are new Russell fans (the other being Ann at Table Talk).

  15. I want to read some Wodehouse at some point, but I will keep in mind to start a little later in the series. I haven't read any Peter S. Beagle, either, though I've heard nothing but rave reviews about his The Last Unicorn. I'm glad you enjoyed this other novella by him, too! And the first book sounds great- never heard of it or the author.

  16. Woodson is such a fabulous writer. I am glad you liked this one. I will have to read it soon as I have read so many of her books. As a YA librarian I loved her ability to turn reluctant readers around. Great review. Thanks!

  17. So glad that you too love Woodson...she has many other gems to read in 2010!

  18. I so love Woodson, therefore I shall find this one and read it. I've turned several moms at the school onto her. I just won a Wodehouse from Francis over Christmas, so I shall soon enter that untapped bit of fun!

  19. I am reading Hush by Woodson and I understand what you mean by her writing style.

    I need to read another Wodehouse soon but I'm not too attracted to the Jeeves character.

  20. The Woodson book sounds excellent so will keep an eye out for it. A new author to me.

    I read heaps of Woodhouse when I was much younger and loved it. Trying it again a year or two ago I wasn't quite so smitten and I'm not sure why. I absolutely adore the TV series with Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry though.

  21. Woodhouse is definitely a treat, I'm glad you're giving him a try and will read more despite this first outing not being all you wanted it to be. Something Fresh is my favorite of his novels that I have read so far. I like the romantic elements in it as well as the humor. Meet Mr. Mulliner is one of my favorite short story collections, although I am a big fan of the Jeeves and Wooster stuff, most especially Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry's interpretation of it in the series they did years ago.

  22. Someday I'll read Wodehouse; I'm sorry this one wasn't quite up to your hopes. However, I wish you a new year that exceeds your hopes in every way!!

  23. I do hope you will enjoy Wodehouse again in the coming year. I find his books perfectly fluffy and wonderful for when I get involved in too much heavy reading. I am not sure which to recommend since all are funny in their own right, I will have to get back to you on that!

  24. Is the Beagle book new? I've never heard of that one.

  25. I read Hush by Woodson this year and really loved ger writing. I will have to check this one out as well.

  26. I was really surprised when you said you hadn't read Wodehouse before. Your first Wodehouse turns out to be one of the few Wodehouses I haven't read :)
    If you are looking for suggestions, I'd suggest Code of the Woosters, Pigs have Wings (or any Blandings book, actually) and Uncle Fred in the Springt-time.

  27. Heather: I did find it funny! I just didn't love it quite as much as I thought I would. But I promise I'll try again.

    Jessica: Sounds like we both do, yes!

    Lu: It broke my heart :( Woodson is brilliant.

    Mrs B: Even if the book wasn't quite the hit I thought it'd be, I think I can see why they'd be comforting!

    Care: And it's even sadder than THAT :(

    Sherry: That's great that she's so approachable! And thank you :D

    Kathleen: lol, I so wish I could too.

    Debi: Yes! You could read it in a couple of hours. Thank you again for them both :D

    Vivienne: Mini-reviews was the only way I could cope with blogging during the holidays :P Back to business as usual now, though.

    Teresa: I need to try that series! And the Mary Russell gushy post is drafted and ready to go :D

    Aarti: I loved The Last Unicorn, but I actually loved other books of his more. Especially A Fine and Private Place.

    Wisteria: Gotta love authors that do that!

    Staci: She does, and I will certainly read her again!

    Sandy: I was lucky enough to win one too and I can't wait to read it!

    Violet: It's so...simple and direct, and yet it packs so much. I don't know how she does it.

    Cath and Carl: I'll definitely keep an eye out for the TV series! And for Something Fresh too.

    ds, thank you so much!

    Zibilee: I won a copy of Psmith Journalist recently, so it'll probably be that!

    Jeane: It's from 2000, but I hadn't actually heard of it until I got it for Christmas either.

    Nicole: Adding Hush to my list!

    Hazra: I guess it's not one of the most popular ones, and for a reason :P Thank you so much for the suggestions!

  28. With Wodehouse, I think the early (though not the earliest) Jeeves stories are indeed the best. I am a Wodehouse addict, and I sort of ration the pre-war stories, IMO his stories which are more so-perfect are the 1920s and 1930s one. He had some problems during the war, and his post-war stories are IMO a bit weaker, a bit well not sad because nothing serious ever intrudes into his books, but just less perfect. 1920s 1930s Wodehouse, now that is just perfect fluff. Fluff, but perfect, and the world has precious few perfect books.

    Try reading The Great Sermon Handicap. It´s ultimate Wodehouse, if you do not love it, there is no point on insisting because it does not get more Wodehous-ian than that. Just because a lot of people love an author does not mean everybody will love his books just the same way. Though maybe is worth trying again in a few years, sometimes it´s the reader which changes! I did not particularly like the first novels I read by Wodehouse or Pratchett or Waugh, it was later I fell in love (though admittedly, not with those particular novels I had read first).

    Teresa C


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