Wodehouse: A Life, By Robert McCrum

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Wodehousians who failed to buy the Penguin edition of McCrum's masterly biography can make good their omission with this more durable production. For the first 59 years of his life, remarkably little of interest happened to the funniest writer of the 20th century.

Though he achieved dazzling success with his adult fairy tales, Wodehouse emerges as a genial workaholic with yapping wife and dogs. In 1940, he dithered too long in his Le Touquet home as the Wehrmacht swept through France.

After a spell in internment, he gave some light-hearted broadcasts in Berlin to fans in America, which had still not entered the war. "The moral test with which Wodehouse was presented was one that as beyond him," writes McCrum. He passed the rest of his life in exile.