Typically wonderful Wodehouse nonsense

Cover of Sam in the Suburbs depicting a young man waving to a woman
First edition (UK), Methuen Publishing Ltd

Sam in the Suburbs by P.G. Wodehouse

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

P.G. Wodehouse is best known for his Jeeves and Blandings series, but once you get past some of his very early novels, almost anything you might pick up by him is a fun read. Sam in the Suburbs, also published as Sam the Sudden, is a solid, silly romp that stands apart from these more famous series.

The story involves the young Sam Shotter. His uncle, who is disappointed with Sam’s careless work, sends him to England to work for his potential business associate, the publisher Lord Tilbury. Not wanting to cross the ocean from New York with Lord Tilbury, who he considers a bore, Sam joins his old pal Hash Todhunter, who is a cook on a tramp steamer. Sam carries around a photo of a woman that he took from the wall of a remote fishing shack in Canada. He has fallen in love with her, he tells Hash, although the photo had been torn out of a magazine without her name attached. When they arrive in England, Hash “borrows” Sam’s money to bet on a dog race, leaving Sam destitute but determined to find the love of his life. The ensuing plot, which entails many absurd coincidences and a run-in with some ridiculous criminals, is typically wonderful Wodehouse nonsense.

Sam is a hilarious character, and I wish he’d appeared in other books. He’s somewhat similar to Bertie Wooster of the Jeeves stories, although Sam is more arrogant and self-confident.

When I’m feeling down or stressed out, I find no better cure than reading Wodehouse’s absurd exploits of the rich and ridiculous in England in the early twentieth century. While it’s true that I and my family wouldn’t have been welcomed in this society, I still somehow find these comic farces, which come across as gentle satires, a comfort. I wouldn’t rank this among Wodehouse’s best works, but it’s a solid entertainment with some hilarious scenes.