“Never! Never! There is no man at Ealing West! There never was a man at Ealing West!”
It was at this point that Jno. Peters began for the first time to entertain serious doubts of the girl’s mental balance. The most elementary acquaintance with the latest census told him that there were any number of men at Ealing West. The place was full of them. Would a sane woman have made an assertion to the contrary? He thought not, and he was glad that he had the revolver with him. She had done nothing as yet actively violent, but it was nice to feel prepared. He took it out and laid it nonchalantly in his lap.
The sight of the weapon acted on Billie electrically. She flung out her hands, in a gesture of passionate appeal, and played her last card.
“I love you!” she cried. She wished she could have remembered his first name. It would have rounded off the sentence neatly. In such a moment she could hardly call him “Mr. Peters.” “You are the only man I love.”
– Shocks all around, The Girl on the Boat
Ever since my father gifted me Summer Moonshine for my eleventh birthday, I’ve loved Wodehouse. I love the way he cooks up his elaborate plots and the wry tone in which he delivers the funniest of jokes. I love the ambivalence of the complicated simplicity of the cushy lives of his protagonists. I’ve wasted several eyelash wishes wishing for a butler like Jeeves. During the summer of 2003, I remember devouring every single Wodehouse at the British Library with a zeal that worried my parents. In other words, Wodehouse is an author I’ve loved for years and years. And I’ve loved him so much that I thought that it wasn’t humanly possible to love him more than I did – but then I read The Girl on the Boat and realized that I was mistaken.
The Girl on the Boat is undoubtedly the best Wodehouse novel I’ve read. Though there are several books from the Jeeves and Wooster series that I worship, they are instruction manuals for putting together agricultural machinery compared to the comical masterpiece that is The Girl on the Boat. Starting off with the travails of a mother who has to resort to extreme measures to prevent her son’s marriage, the story then meanders to an entertaining voyage on the boat mentioned in the title and then to the idyllic Windles.
Full of misunderstandings, broken engagements, interfering aunts and elaborate ruses – The Girl on the Boat has everything that is wonderful about Wodehouse. The finest and funniest part of the book is the aptly-titled chapter Shocks all around that had me laughing for hours on end. If due to some awful twist of fate, you can only ever read one Wodehouse book, I hope that it shall be this one because this is the maestro of mirth at his finest.