Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Review: Laughing Gas

Laughing Gas Laughing Gas by P.G. Wodehouse
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

When his cousin Egremont gets betrothed in Hollywood, Reggie Havershot has no choice but to go find him. Reggie finds Eggy but falls in love in the process with April June. After a strange incident in a dentist's office, Reggie swaps bodies with child star Joey Cooley. Will Reggie be able to set things right before Joey wrecks his life by punching everyone he dislikes in the snoot?

This is the first Wodehouse I've read in a couple years, recommended by none other than Gail Carriger at the 2016 Goodreads Summit.

It starts out with the old Wodehouse formula, a gentleman of leisure infatuated with a beautiful woman. Then the body swap happens and things go pear-shaped in a big way. Is Laughing Gas the spiritual ancestor of later body-swapping comedies like Freaky Friday, Vice Versa, and that episode of Red Dwarf where Lister and Rimmer switch bodies? Yes, yes it probably is.

Laughing Gas has more outlandish situations than most Wodehouse novels and is also a satire of Hollywood culture, something that hasn't changed in the eighty years since this book was written. I lost count of the hilarious lines Wodehouse wove into this ridiculous tapestry.

Despite its deviation from the tried and true Wodehouse formula, the trademark wordplay, twists of fate, impostors, and misunderstandings are in full swing. The additional complication of Cooley in Havershot's body rampaging around Hollywood, smiting his enemies, while Havershot endures the hell that Cooley has created back home provides additional laughs.

As with all Wodehouses, there are some reversals of fortune and everything ultimately turns out okay. While I liked Laughing Gas for its novelty and the usual Wodehousian wordplay, it wasn't up to the standards of The Code of the Woosters, Leave It to Psmith, or Cocktail Time. Three out of five stars.

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