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Familiar Diversions

I'm a librarian who loves anime, manga, and reading a wide variety of genres.

Currently reading

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The Adventures of Sally (audio book) by P.G. Wodehouse, read by Kara Shallenberg

The Adventures of Sally - Kara Shallenberg, P.G. Wodehouse

[This is an old review, and I had to guess at a star rating. I listened to the LibriVox recording, which can be downloaded here.]

 

I expected to love this book. Its setup seemed very similar to another one of Wodehouse's works, Jill the Reckless (see my post for that book). The main female character is engaged to a guy who seems great but turns out not to be. Both books involved theater productions with horribly dysfunctional things going on behind the scenes, both books featured charming, much-loved heroines, and both books included relatives who were less than stellar about not wasting the heroine's money.

I sat back, expecting another fun romantic comedy, but the longer I listened, the more I disliked this book. I didn't like Sally as much as the characters seemed to, I hated that Ginger seemed to find nothing wrong with the way Sally treated him, Sally's brother was completely unappealing, and just about every scene near the end that involved Sally and either Bruce Carmyle or Gerald either made me mad or chilled me when I thought about what Sally had only narrowly avoided. Sally didn't even avoid disaster by her own wits. No, her happy ending just fell into her lap.

It started out fairly promisingly. Sally and Ginger were cute together (although, even that early on in the book, there were things I disliked about their relationship), and Sally seemed nice enough. I was a little surprised at how similar some things seemed to be to Jill the Reckless, but I decided I was okay with more of the same, if that was what it was going to turn out to be. I figured Sally's brother would be like Jill's Uncle Chris, and Gerald would be like Derek Underhill. I wasn't, at first, sure that Ginger was really going to be the guy Sally would end up with, since he seemed less like Wally and more like Freddie – I wondered if maybe Bruce Carmyle would turn out to secretly be a great guy and morph into Sally's surprise love interest.

Noticing the similarities between Jill the Reckless and The Adventures of Sally only seemed to put The Adventures of Sally's faults in greater relief. Jill was nice, naive, and in possession of both a spine and her pride. I found her interactions with Wally to mostly be charming. Sally's interactions with Ginger, on the other hand, did not have the same effect on me. I thought Sally treated Ginger like a cute, squirming puppy. It seemed to me like she used him when she needed him (he was her emotional sounding board), but she never seemed to recognize that she was taking without giving much in return. Then again, I think Wodehouse intended to his readers to see Sally's beauty, energy, and interest in talking to Ginger as reward enough.

I hated it when Sally wrote Ginger letter after letter, but asked him not to write her in return – she knew he was attracted to her and probably missed her, so if she was going to use him as a way to vent, the least she could have done was let him write her back. I found her behavior selfish, and the worst of it was that Ginger didn't see it that way. He happily did whatever Sally asked, because he liked having whatever contact with her she was willing to give. While I didn't want Sally to end up with Gerald (who I imagine would have eventually turned into an alcoholic, abusive husband) or Mr. Carmyle (who had never really been in love with her, anyway), I didn't want Sally to end up with Ginger until Ginger proved that he wasn't going to let her walk all over him and that he could love Sally without putting her on a pedestal. Unfortunately, I don't think Ginger got to that point, or at least Wodehouse didn't take the time to show it.

I was pretty sure I'd continue to dislike Sally's brother until the very end (I did), but I was surprised at how deep my dislike of Gerald ended up going. I think the last straw, for me, was when he got drunk, broke things, and whined to Sally about all the things that had gone wrong in his life. While Gerald came across as pathetic and potentially abusive (I shudder to think what his and Sally's married life would have been like once his plays started to flop), Mr. Carmyle just came across as cold and over-controlled. I didn't end up disliking him as much as I did Gerald, but I was incredibly frustrated with Sally for not only agreeing to marry him (which I could have forgiven – everyone has weak moments), but also for choosing to stick with that decision. She kept saying that she had to marry Mr. Carmyle because she said she would. I didn't see why she couldn't just tell him she'd changed her mind.

Sally's self-destructive stubbornness would have been her downfall, except that a misunderstanding fixed everything without her having to do a thing but keep her mouth shut. I would have much preferred it if she had purposefully done something with the intention of fixing her own mistakes, and it was incredibly disappointing that good fortune just fell into her lap.

I would recommend that those looking for a light, fun comedy by Wodehouse read Jill the Reckless instead. I'd only recommend The Adventures of Sally to someone if they were looking for something a little less bright and shiny – I do think The Adventures of Sally had a slightly darker feel than Jill the Reckless, particularly near the end.

 

(Original review, with read-alikes and watch-alikes, posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)