Jeeves and the Leap of Faith: A Novel in Homage to P. G. Wodehouse

Written by Ben Schott
Review by Jean Huets

Jeeves and the Leap of Faith is Ben Schott’s second romp through the setting and characters created by P. G. Wodehouse, starring the addled and idle-rich Bertie Wooster and his valet Jeeves, in London, loosely between the World Wars.

You either like Wooster world, or you don’t. Granted, that staggering insight applies to just about anything. The point here is, if you don’t enjoy fiction with little redeeming value beyond making you laugh, you had best execute a swift French Exit, as Bertie Wooster would put it, before opening either Wodehouse’s or Schott’s books. Toodle-oo!

That leaves the rest of us, who have chortled through Wodehouse’s series, probably more than once. Carrying a heavy burden of affection, I began Ben Schott’s book with trepidation.

The first order of the day was to shed the idea of finding Jeeves and Wooster perfectly resurrected from the Wodehouse creation. While Schott is faithful to the characters, inevitably there are differences. His Wooster is smarter than Wodehouse’s, a challenge since Wooster’s comic appeal lies in his good-hearted vapidity. Worst/best of all, Wooster’s mission transcends his usual aim of maintaining his lifestyle. He must foil a fascist plot. Jeeves, too, and his relationship with Wooster, show unexpected depths.  The most important question, however—will I laugh often and out loud?—was soon, happily, put to rest.

Schott throws ridiculously vivid lines, à la Wodehouse: a tipsy man “corkscrewing through the crowd,” a friend “bouncing around the room like a jam-jarred wasp.” Wooster’s blunders and Jeeves’ convoluted saves, and their petty victories and setbacks in sartorial tugs of war, will keep Wodehouse fans LOLing, as will the familiar cast of scheming maidens, hapless fellow idlers with Dickensian names, iron-browed aunts, and loathsome manly men.