Books for the Reading: Bill the Conqueror

by Lynn Wienck, The Chisholm Trail Bookstore

Autumn, perhaps, has arrived early in Oklahoma; it’s cooler now. In the dark of early morning, mystical clouds in the distance are backlit by lightning; small patches of damp remain on the roads after nightly rains. It’s a welcome relief from the relentless oven heat, blazing white sun, and desert-dry air of the last few months.

In keeping with the welcome relief of weather is a bright, cheerful book, Bill the Conqueror by P. G. Wodehouse. Although first published in 1924, the tale remains fresh, as do the characters. P. G. Wodehouse (1881-1975) wrote delightful, complicated fictional tales. The Wodehouse stories I know best are those where butler Jeeves rescues high-spirited social gadfly Bertie Wooster from dire predicaments and consequences.

This tale, however, is not about Bertie Wooster, nor is it about Jeeves. It is about Bill, an upstanding-all-around-good-guy who travels to England from America with his not-so-upstanding best friend, Judson. Bill, the hero (or conqueror, if you prefer) must isolate his best friend from trouble and drink, investigate a dubious-dealing business firm, and discover who he actually loves, Felicia or Alice. In this tale, everyone seems to know everyone else, but in a rather confused fashion with multiple misunderstandings. It’s usual Wodehouse mayhem and simultaneously manages to be good, humorous, and wildly improbable. I do wonder what the diagram showing the lines of all the relationships would resemble – a kaleidoscope would be my best guess.

This may be a plot spoiler, but the book finishes well: no dark humor, no hidden agenda, no reading between the lines. The action and multiple storylines are complex, but the intent is clear: enjoyment.

It’s also time to enjoy Oklahoma early morning soft rains, and lightning in mystical, dark skies.

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