Blandings Castle is beset with thieves and conspirators when Lord Emsworth accidentally pockets Mr. Peters' prized scarab beetle, with romances blooming along the way. One of the most famous Wodehouse novels of all time, Something Fresh introduces the iconic Blandings Castle and its owner, the quiet and placid and unambitious Lord Emsworth.
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The novel begins in London, with the meeting of a sprightly young author of detective novels named Ashe Marson and a young woman who lives in the same apartment building, named Joan Valentine. Joan sees that Ashe is stuck in a rut with writer's block and is uninspired by his current line of work, and persuades Ashe to rethink the direction his life is going in. This leads Ashe to the scarab beetle, a precious collector's item owned by the wealth Mr. Preston Peters, whose daughter Aline is engaged to be married to Freddie Threepwood, a son of Lord Emsworth of Blandings Castle. The scarab beetle, the property of Mr. Preston Peters, ends up accidentally in Lord Emsworth's pocket while Emsworth is visiting Mr. Peters (Lord Emsworth is famously scatter-brained and absent-minded, and distractedly puts the beetle in his pocket himself). When he discovers the beetle in his pocket, he decides Mr. Peters gave it to him as a gift.
However, Mr. Peters suspects who has taken the beetle (Emworth) but is afraid of confronting Emsworth and the awkwardness that would ensue, especially endangering his daughter's engagement. Here we see the old class bias of England at play. He puts out a discreet offer of a thousand pounds for anyone who can recover his scarab beetle - and Ashe Marson answers this advertisement.
Meanwhile, it appears that Joan Valentine and Freddie Threepwood once had a romantic past together. Joan Valentine, already introduced as a free-spirited, modern girl, is revealed to be a chorus girl that Freddie once had an affair with, and to whom he may have sent compromisingly letters. Freddie is now embarrassed about those letters with his engagement coming up, and pays a man named Jones to make sure that Joan Valentine cannot blackmail Freddie with the letters. However, Freddie has misjudged the honest Joan here, because it turns out that she destroyed Freddie's letters long ago. This is because Joan is friends with Aline Peters, the girl that Freddie is engaged to.
Ashe poses as Mr. Peters' valet, or personal manservant, to get into Blandings Castle, where he must deal with Baxter, who is Emsworth's all-knowing and highly intelligent secretary. Joan also arrives at Blandings Castle at the same time, also on a quest to retrieve the scarab beetle first and so claim the reward. There are a series of amusing mishaps in which Ashe fails to follow the rigid rules of Edwardian Britain in regards to how servants behaved in a great English manor house, and how the class rules between gentlemen and servants were maintained. In doing so, Ashe arouses suspicions from Baxter and the Blandings butler, Beach. After repeated attempts to steal back the scarab beetle, one almost-successful attempt ends when Ashe realizes that the scarab beetle is missing! It turns out that it was stolen all along by Freddie Threepwood, the wealthy son of Emsworth who turns out to desperately need money after all - he must pay Jones for attempting to stop Joan Valentine from (Freddie's imagined) blackmail over the old letters he sent her. Ashe confronts Freddie and assures him Joan never had any intention of blackmailing him - he gets the scarab beetle back, and is then able to turn it in to Mr. Peters himself, collecting the reward. It ends with the happy engagement of Joan and Ashe, and the broken engagement of Aline and Freddie when Aline realizes she doesn't love Freddie but instead loves a kind and protective young police officer named George, and Lord Emsworth restores Freddie's allowance to him on condition of good behavior.
Best part of story, including ending:
I loved the descriptions of Blandings Castle.
Best scene in story:
I enjoyed the meet-cute between Joan Valentine and Ashe Marson when she spies him doing his exercises in the park and being a little dorky.
Opinion about the main character:
The main character in this novel is hard to classify but it's mainly Ashe. I like his sense of humor.
Disenchanted novelist Ashe Marson sets out on a new career as a valet/thief to impress the girl he loves. Ashe Marson is a devotee of physical fitness and writer of cheap detective stories who is thoroughly sick of his own work. A chance meeting with Joan Valentine gives Ashe the impetus to seek new and exciting work in the newspaper ads. Elsewhere, the Honourable Freddie Threepwood, youngest son of Lord Emsworth, hires bookie, R. Jones, to get back some compromising letters he once wrote to a chorus girl. Freddie is engaged to be married to Aline Peters, daughter of the American millionaire J. Preston Peters, and is afraid of scandal, although he's not really all that enthusiastic about the marriage, all he wants is for his father to let him go back to London. Meanwhile, Freddie's father is meeting with his son's prospective father in law who shows the Earl his collection of ancient Egyptian scarabs, which he took up collecting in the hope that a relaxing hobby would help with his chronic digestive problems. But the absent minded Lord Emworth pockets the most valuable piece in the collection without realising he has done so. After Lord Emsworth has left, Peters assumes the Earl is a thief but does not want to jeopardise his daughter's marriage. But Aline Peters has another suitor in the shape of Hong Kong policeman George Emerson, who proposes to her over lunch. Aline refuses but Emerson tells her that he had become friends with Freddie and will be joining them at the Emsworth's ancestral home, Blandings Castle. It turns out that the chorus girl to whom Freddie sent his compromising letters is Joan Valentine. When R. jones tracks her down she tells him that she destroyed the letters a long time ago. As R. Jones is leaving, Aline Peters (who is a friend of Joan's) arrives and tells Joan of her father's stolen scarab and that he is offering a £1000 reward. Joan decides to try to get the reward by coming to Blandings Castle, posing as Aline's maid. R. Jones has overheard this at the door. Ashe Marson will also be heading for Blandings as the exciting new job he found in the newspapers proves to be for J. Preston Peters, who hires him to pose as a valet and steal back the scarab. Ashe won the millionaire's confidence by helping him with his digestion problems by recommending a program of physical fitness. Ashe is keen to tell Joan his news but she does not tell him that she too is trying to win the £1000 reward, instead she tries to dissuade him by telling him of the difficulties in posing as a valet in the highly regimented world of country house servants. But Ashe will not be swayed and they both head up to Blandings. Still, Ashe's unfamiliarity with proper etiquette does get him into trouble as Lord Emsworth's secretary, The Efficient Baxter, is suspicious of him and follows when Ashe and Joan make their attempt on the scarab. Ashe is able to talk both his and Joan's way out of it, leaving Baxter satisfied but still suspicious. The next morning Joan and Ashe agree to take it in turns to try and steal the scarab and a coin toss decides that Ashe can go first. But Ashe's first attempt is ruined when he collides with George Emerson, who was bringing a romantic midnight feast to Aline. A fight ensues in the darkness and the Efficient Baxter is first on the scene. Unfortunately for Baxter, by the time the rest of the house arrive and the lights are on, Ashe and George are gone and he is blamed by Lord Emsworth for stealing food in the night. When Joan tries the following night she discovers the scarab has already been taken. Ashe learns that Freddie is the thief. He stole it on the advice of R. Jones who claimed that Joan was asking for £1000 for the return of his letters. Ashe is able to tell Freddie that Joan asked for nothing of the kind and Freddie gives him the scarab, which he returns to Peters. The sight of George disappointed by his failure to win her makes Aline realise how much she loves him and she elopes with him to Hong Kong. Freddie is fairly unconcerned as Lord Emsworth has agreed to let him go to London again. Ashe and Joan get together and both go to work for Peters.
Like most of his lightly comic novels, P. G. Wodehouse's Something Fresh is incredibly convoluted to explain but an utter delight to read. This was the first of the Blandings Castle stories and Wodehouse would write another 10 books and numerous short stories in the setting.
Best part of story, including ending:
I love this story because the writing is so funny.
Best scene in story:
I like the scene in which Lord Emsworth takes the scarab without realising it and then assumes it was a gift, it perfectly sums up the eccentric and slightly dopey English peer.
Opinion about the main character:
I like Ashe's 'can do' attitude, once he has set his mind on something he goes for it.