P.G. Wodehouse: A Life in Letters

P. G. Wodehouse, Author, Sophie Ratcliffe, Editor
Edited by Sophie Ratcliffe. Norton, $35 (640p) ISBN 978-0-393-08899-1
Open Ebook - 624 pages - 978-0-393-08987-5
Open Ebook - 624 pages - 978-1-4481-0773-5
Paperback - 432 pages - 978-0-09-951479-4
Hardcover - 602 pages - 978-0-09-179634-1
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This first comprehensive collection of correspondence by the creator of the irrepressible Jeeves and Bertie Wooster reveals Wodehouse (1881–1975) to be an indefatigably cheerful chap whose “voice” might easily be mistaken for that of one of his comic characters. Weaving biographical information around skillfully edited and annotated letters from 1899 to 1975, Ratcliffe creates a portrait of Wodehouse as a tireless worker, devoted family man, and loyal friend. An energetic Wodehouse bounced ideas off fellow writers William Townend and Leslie Havergal Bradshaw, and regaled recipients with anecdotes about his collaborations as a lyricist with Guy Bolton, Jerome Kern, and others. Wodehouse was a footloose transatlantic traveler, often accompanied by his wife, Ethel, and beloved stepdaughter Leonora. Letters from Hollywood and New York, and from rented homes in France and England detail the life of a well-heeled cosmopolite. The upbeat tone of his letters notwithstanding, Wodehouse dealt with considerable drama, including as a prisoner of war accused of collaborating with Nazi propagandists, and in his later years, he bore up against the deaths of friends and family. Ever droll and witty, the letters burst with insights about the craft of writing, appraisals of his surroundings, and negotiating the vicissitudes of life (“One good result of the [air]-raid is that two dinner engagements which we had have been cancelled!”). The book is an excellent introduction to Wodehouse’s life. (Jan.)
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