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Cocktail Time
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Hot books/small group reads > 'Cocktail Time' by P.G. Wodehouse

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message 1: by Nigeyb (last edited May 28, 2017 06:47AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Nigeyb A thread to discuss....

Cocktail Time
by P.G. Wodehouse

An Uncle Fred novel

Frederick, Earl of Ickenham, remains young at heart. So it is for him the act of a moment to lean out of the Drones Club window with a catapult and ping the silk top-hat off his grumpy in-law, the distinguished barrister Sir Raymond Bastable - but unfortunately things don't end there.

The sprightly earl finds that his action has inspired a scandalous bestseller and a film script - but this is as nothing compared with the entangled fates of the couples that surround him. In this delightful novel by the master of comic fiction, Uncle Fred will discover that only he, with his fabled sweetness and light can save the day.

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 931 comments Looking forward to this one - I've read lots of Jeeves but no Uncle Fred, and it's time I put that right! Thanks for setting up the thread, Nigeyb!

Nigeyb Thanks Judy

I've not read any Uncle Fred either and, like you, I am keen to put that right.

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 931 comments I've just ordered that very edition from the library - what a great cover.

message 5: by Nigeyb (last edited May 28, 2017 07:26AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Nigeyb I couldn't agree more Judy

Another edition from the wonderful Everyman's Library imprint...

All the covers are perfect and really enhance the reading experience. They're all designed by Andrzej Klimowski....

‘In these handsome volumes, with the pages that smell of real paper and those fine covers by Andrzej Klimowski, you find that the sparkle hasn’t dimmed. They are a cause for regular celebration.’


Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 931 comments I have picked this up from the library today and am looking forward to it - let me know when anyone else is ready to go. :)

Nigeyb Wonderful news Judy. I should be ready to start later this week if that suits you. Around Wednesday. I've just got to finish one of the books I am currently reading.

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 931 comments Sounds good to me. I will be even more in need of comic relief by then...

Lynaia | 153 comments I think I'll join in as well. I love Uncle Fred stories and it's been a long time since I've read any.

message 10: by Nigeyb (last edited Jun 05, 2017 11:52AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Nigeyb Hurrah - great news Lynaia. This will be my first Uncle Fred, so great to have a seasoned Uncle Fred reader in our midst.

I expect I am not the only one who finds this description, from Wikipedia, irresistible...

Frederick Altamont Cornwallis Twistleton, 5th Earl of Ickenham, commonly known as Uncle Fred, is a fictional character who appears in short stories and novels written by P. G. Wodehouse between 1935 and 1961. An energetic and mischievous old chap, his talent for trouble is the bane of his nephew Pongo Twistleton's life.

Even the names bring a smile to my face, especially Pongo Twistleton

Barbara I just started this today and am already halfway through it. It is so funny! Wodehouse on the surface is goofy,with implausible plotlines, but his writing is full of Biblical quotes, literary allusions, even a reference to Vile Bodies. Definitely humor for the well-read. So glad to be reading this.

message 12: by Nigeyb (last edited Jun 06, 2017 11:01PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Nigeyb Wonderful to read your thoughts Barbara.

I read the first few pages last night before turning the lights out. The splendid opening at The Drones left me with a glow of pleasure.

I was also inspired to look up "the poet Browning" who often gets referenced by PGW. It is of course Victorian favourite Robert Browning

If at this moment the poet Browning had come along and suggested to him that the lark was on the wing, the snail on the thorn, God in His heaven and all right with the world, he would have assented with a cheery 'You put it in a nutshell my dear fellow! How right you are!'

From Pippa Passes...

The year’s at the spring,
And day’s at the morn;
Morning’s at seven;
The hill-side’s dew-pearled;
The lark’s on the wing;
The snail’s on the thorn;
God’s in His heaven—
All’s right with the world!

message 13: by Judy (last edited Jun 07, 2017 12:44AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 931 comments Starting tonight. Nigeyb, I love Browning - the excerpt from Pippa Passes is not very typical. He isn't always that cheery!

message 14: by Judy (new) - rated it 3 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 931 comments I've started now and am finding it very funny so far. Love your description of PGW's writing style, Barbara - his writing is so playful and endlessly inventive.

Also fun to have an older central character compared to Jeeves and Wooster, and I'm interested to see that the Drones Club features here too! Wonder if any minor characters featured in both J&W and Uncle Fred books?

message 15: by Nigeyb (last edited Jun 08, 2017 01:38AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Nigeyb I am sure there must be some crossover Judy - though I cannot state that for a fact.

I was out last night (watching Kraftwerk triv fans) and read a bit when I got in but I was so tired that I cannot really remember it, suffice to say that it was making me smile. Actually, no I do remember it, Uncle Fred is at Lords with Pongo after their lunch and so we get a bit more background about Beefy Bastable, who assumes some young hooligan from the Drones was responsible for the brazil nut displacing his topper. Classic stuff.

I've got a few leaflets to deliver this morning to encourage people to vote - but hoping I might carve out 20 or 30 mins early evening for more. And, I feel sure, I will be depressed by tomorrow's election result so what better than a bit of PGW's gentle humour to improve matters?

Lynaia | 153 comments From what I've seen there is some crossover with some of the side characters but I don't recall either Jeeves or Bertie Wooster being in any of the Uncle Fred stories. Uncle Fred in Springtime involves all the characters with Blandings Castle.

I must say, I'm thoroughly enjoying getting into an Uncle Fred story again. I was just saying the other day that sometimes I miss the uninhibitidness I had as a teenager and Uncle Fred definitely helps you "relive" that feeling. I was told that after you turn 60 you don't care what people think anymore and you become more uninhibited again. Could be fun!

message 17: by Nigeyb (last edited Jun 08, 2017 12:42PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Nigeyb I'm 50 pages in now and loving it. 'Beefy' Barnstable is following Bacon's example with Shakespeare, and getting Cosmo to take the credit for the infamous novel. What can possibly go wrong?

Getting back to characters from other novels crossing over, I noticed a passing reference to Sir Roderick Glossop in Cocktail Time, who I recall getting mentioned in other PGW novels.

A quick Google revealed...

Sir Roderick Glossop is a recurring fictional character in the comic novels of P. G. Wodehouse.

Sometimes referred to as "the noted nerve specialist" or "the loony doctor", he is the most famous practitioner of psychiatry in Wodehouse's works, appearing in several Wooster-Jeeves stories and one Blandings story. Glossop represents one of the most fearsome authority-figures in the Wodehouse canon who is not an aunt. His character does not satirize any psychological fads in particular, but he manages to appear on the scene whenever one of Wodehouse's hapless heroes happens to be dressed or behaving in a way that might be construed to indicate insanity.

During the events of Uncle Fred in the Springtime, he is impersonated by Lord Ickenham, who borrows his identity to take lodgings in Blandings so as to resolve a series of complications. Sir Roderick, of course, suspects nothing.

More here....

message 18: by Judy (new) - rated it 3 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 931 comments Interesting to hear that there is some crossover - I definitely remember Glossop from the Jeeves books!

I was amused by the catapult incident since I've recently read a couple of murder mysteries where a catapult was a deadly weapon - although I have to say it wasn't loaded with a Brazil nut!

Donald Whiteway | 24 comments Ha! Loving all the comments re: PGW. Always, always loved Jeeves & Bertie. This will be my first go at a different series. My copy of Cocktail Time is waiting for me to finish A God in Ruins.

....btw, Interestingly, here in the US a catault is called a slingshot!

Nigeyb This is heartwarming news Donald. I am looking forward to discovering what you make of 'Cocktail Time'. Hurry up and finish 'A God In Ruins'.

Meanwhile, I'm now back reading this after a momentous 24 hours in the real world. I thought I'd be diving into 'Cocktail Time' to take my mind off the outcome of the General Election here in the UK, instead I found I could not possibly consider reading a book whilst such remarkable events were unfolding. We truly live in strange and unpredictable times eh?

Back to the book, I've now encountered the disreputable Oily. Fortunately Uncle Fred seems to have his measure. I did enjoy Oily's attempts to flog Fred the ruby ring.

I've made this comparison before, but reading PGW is like slipping into a warm bath: familiar, reassuring, very enjoyable, slightly decadent, predictable, and yet one of the nicest experiences there is.


message 21: by Judy (new) - rated it 3 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 931 comments Getting further into this now (after also being distracted by the election!) and I'm enjoying how witty Wodehouse is and the sublime barminess of the characters.

Loved this description of Cosmo:

"Solomon in all his glory might have had a slight edge on Cosmo Wisdom, but it would have been a near thing."

message 22: by Judy (last edited Jun 11, 2017 11:02AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 931 comments I'd always thought that Wodehouse's world was firmly stuck in the 1920s and 30s.

So I was quite surprised to see that the book within the book has a cover featuring "a young man with a monocle in his right eye doing the rock 'n roll with a young woman in her step-ins."

Rock'n'roll is keeping firmly up to date with the 1950s publication date, even if the monocle isn't!

I've now read a little bit further and Uncle Fred starts reminiscing about the Home Guard during WW2 - so it would seem this is very much set in the 50s!

Lynaia | 153 comments Just finished reading. Every time you think everything is solved, there is another twist to the story. I did find it interesting how often he mentioned the United States Marines. It's such an English novel, you don't expect references to American military. I know I've read this story before but it's been so long I forgot most of it. Definitely good fun!

Nigeyb Indeed. Great fun.

The references to the Marines are great - as are the occasional references to different poets

Uncle Fred gets so many great lines

I am on p172/244 and have just enjoyed the Swan scene which had me chuckling

Lynaia | 153 comments Loved the swan scene! My father is a photographer and has had his own run ins with mother swans. You definitely don't stand your ground with a mother swan. You run your tail off.

Nigeyb Good advice Lynaia

I am almost finished now and have really enjoyed it so far

A quick question for the veteran Uncle Fred readers, are the other books as good as this one?

Interestingly two stories appear to be set at Blandings (so a bit more Wodehouse-ian crossover by the looks of it)...

The Uncle Fred stories comprise one short story and four novels, two of which are set at Blandings Castle:

"Uncle Fred Flits By" (1935) - included in the collection Young Men in Spats, (1936)
Uncle Fred in the Springtime (1939) - a Blandings story
Uncle Dynamite (1948)
Cocktail Time (1958)
Service with a Smile (1961) - a Blandings story

Lynaia | 153 comments Uncle Fred Flits Byis a short story

Lynaia | 153 comments Uncle Fred Flits By is a short story which gives you a good idea about the character and antics of Uncle Fred. The rest are full length novels and I enjoyed them so much when I read them that I bought the omnibus Utterly Uncle Fred. The only story it didn't have was Uncle Fred in Springtime which I had already purchased on our trip to London. I would definitely recommend any of the Uncle Fred stories.

message 29: by Nigeyb (last edited Jun 12, 2017 11:39AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Nigeyb Brilliant - thanks Lynaia

I especially like the sound of...

Utterly Uncle Fred

Frederick Altamont Cornwallis Twistleton, 5th Earl of Ickenham, better known as Uncle Fred, is back “to spread sweetness and light” wherever he goes . . . much to the dismay of his nephew Pongo. Whether disguised as an eminent nerve specialist helping the ailing upper class, an anesthesiologist ready to help clip a parrot’s claws, a major returned from an exploration of Brazil, or simply George Robinson of 14 Nasturtium Road, East Dulwich, Uncle Fred is always available to help people in need (even more so if a false identity is involved). Included are three novels—Cocktail Time, Uncle Dynamite, and Service With a Smile—and the short story “Uncle Fred Flits By.”

Lynaia | 153 comments The only problem I have with this book is it's rather bulky and heavy. It's a great collection though.

Nigeyb Yes, I have a compendium called 'What Ho! The Best of PGW' and would not consider taking it out and about.

I now realise I have read one of the other Fred books - one set in Blandings, which is referenced in 'Cocktail Time' and when he goes to Blandings to pose as Sir Roderick Glossop (who I also mentioned above as a recurring character).

Some of those Blandings books are amongst my favourites I have read by PGW. One scene with Baxter still makes me chuckle when I think of it.

message 32: by Nigeyb (last edited Jun 13, 2017 04:49AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Nigeyb What ho, I've finished!

Click here to read my review

Thanks so much to everyone who has, is, and will, read and discuss 'Cocktail Time'.

It's been a joy reading your comments and observations. I hope there will be plenty more.

As I state in my review, I already eagerly await my next foray into the wonderful world of Wodehouse.

His books are the best possible escape from the real world - a retreat into a predictable, amusing, cheerful place where the lovelorn ultimately find solace and the pompous have their pomposity pricked.

message 33: by Nigeyb (last edited Jun 15, 2017 05:34AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Nigeyb Just mulling further on this book, and the Uncle Fred character, I conclude that - on balance - I have derived more outright comedy and actual laughter from, in order of hilarity...

- the PSmith books
- the Blandings series
- the Jeeves and Wooster series
- Uncle Fred

Which is not to denigrate Uncle Fred, who is also quite splendid, just an incomplete view based on around 20 or so Wodehouse books and added short stories.

What about the rest of my Wodehousian chums?

Barbara I've only read a few Wodehouse books, so I couldn't yet rate them in order of hilarity. I liked the Psmith books a lot, but they were so full of cricket that I missed a lot. I'm not at all into sports and know absolutely nothing about cricket so I just didn't understand what was going on during those sections of the books. Have yet to read any of the Blandings books--but will have to rectify that soon.

message 35: by Judy (new) - rated it 3 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 931 comments I've only read Jeeves and Wooster up to now, and found them hilarious. This is my first Uncle Fred - enjoying it a lot so far but not as much as Jeeves!

Nigeyb Thanks Barbara and Judy - to be continued....

Lynaia | 153 comments I haven't read any of the Psmith novels yet although I have most if not all of them on my Kindle. To some extent, the Blandings and the Uncle Fred stories kind of merge to me since 2 of the Uncle Fred stories involve Blandings. However, If I had to separate them, I would say my favorite are the Uncle Fred stories. Maybe because Uncle Fred reminds me a little of my husband and my son. My least favorite would have to be the Jeeves and Wooster stories. I think a big part of the reason they are my least favorite is that the female characters, apart from 1 aunt, all seem so awful in one way or another. Of course, it's been a long time since I've read them and I'm not sure if I'm just remembering the TV series with Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry or if it's the books themselves.

message 38: by Nigeyb (last edited Jun 15, 2017 02:34PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Nigeyb Interesting. Thanks Lynaia. I agree that the female characters are a bit underdeveloped in many J&W books - either scary haridans or love interest, but actually the same could be said about most of the men too. Indeed the only character with any real depth and charm is Jeeves. That said, I do think many of the J&W novels are truly wonderful.

Lynaia | 153 comments The male characters are at least likeable. I just found the female characters to be mostly imperious managing harridans with the occasional ditz thrown in. But even the ditzy women still seemed somewhat bossy and managing a lot of times. I still enjoyed the Jeeves & Wooster stories but I much prefer the Blandings and Uncle Fred stories.

message 40: by Judy (new) - rated it 3 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 931 comments While I'm enjoying Cocktail Time, I don't find it a patch on J&W and am wondering if this is just because I'm not familiar with the characters? I'm guessing that as you get to know Uncle Fred and the rest they probably become ever funnier.

Nigeyb Interesting. Thanks Judy. I definitely warmed to Fred as the book went along. I am sure familiarity helps to appreciate his charms.

Donald Whiteway | 24 comments Finished Cocktail Time over the weekend and enjoyed it immensely!! I loved Uncle Fred. I picture him as an older, but perhaps not wiser Bertie Wooster. I even found the narrator to be speaking to me in a sort of B.W. Wooster manner, which made it all the more enjoyable. (Spoiler Alert!!!) Pretty much knowing that all would work out in the end, I still was amazed to read how PGW made all the pieces fit together; had all the plates he had spinning land softly into his arms without crashing. A great read and made me want to seek out more of Uncle Fred!!!

Nigeyb Hurrah. So glad to discover you enjoyed it so much Donald. I too will be reading more Uncle Fred - not that there's a huge amount of it

message 44: by Val (new) - rated it 3 stars

Val Donald wrote: "Finished Cocktail Time over the weekend and enjoyed it immensely!! I loved Uncle Fred. I picture him as an older, but perhaps not wiser Bertie Wooster. I even found the narrator to be speaking to m..."
None of Wodehouse's protagonists ever really grow up, however old they get. Bertie Wooster, Uncle Fred, Lord Emsworth and even Psmith are essentially schoolboys who have managed to get over the nausea caused by their first cigar or taste of alcohol. I think that is why the attitudes to women are so juvenile; his young men are either scared of girls or go dotty over them, while adult women are also frightening and usually bossy, like boarding school matrons.
I imagine PGW read a lot of school stories when he was young and wanted to create a version for adults. He did not spend much time in the UK as a adult, so it is possible that his vision of the country remained that of a schoolboy, but I prefer to think he invented it.

Nigeyb That's very astute Val.

From what little I know of PGW he very much inhabited his own internal world and was very distracted and distant when in the company of other people

message 46: by Val (last edited Jun 23, 2017 04:43AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Val I don't know much about PGW's private life either, but I did notice that his first experience of ladies underwear must have been in the US and wonder whose it was. (He refers to step-ins, an Americanism for a chemise or cami-knickers.)

Nigeyb We should probably read a PGW biog one of these days - though I suspect his life was probably less entertaining than his writing. Although, of course, there was all that brouhaha during and immediately after WW2 which would liven things up a bit.

Barbara Step-ins is an Americanism? I've only ever heard it in British books.

And yes, a biography would be great.

message 49: by Val (new) - rated it 3 stars

Val I did not know the word so looked it up in a couple of dictionaries and then a website about vintage clothing. It is used in British English for shoes sometimes (as an alternative to slip-ons), but in US English it is an undergarment. I think the woman in question was in her undies, not just her shoes, as nudity is unlikely to have been allowed on a book cover.

Barbara Thanks, Val. I just looked it up too. Apparently it is a "dated" term. I'm dated, but not quite THAT dated! I did recently see the term in a book--Agatha Christie maybe?--referring to shoes. As you say, I can't imagine the lady wearing nothing but slip-on shoes! Funny the things we learn in BYT.

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