This is the first time I’ve read Doctor Sally by PG Wodehouse, after years of enjoying characters such as Bertie Wooster and Jeeves and a variety of Aunts saying and doing things which made me snort with laughter.
I don’t think Doctor Sally is as good as some of Wodehouse’s other books, but it is still an amusing read, as Wodehouse’s worst is probably still funnier than most other writers at their best. Doctor Sally has only five main characters, who include the golfing-mad Sir Hugo, Sir Hugo’s nephew Bill Bannister, Doctor Sally of the title, Mrs Lottie Higginbotham, who is recognised by all as being no better than she ought to have been, and Lord Tidmouth, who is usually known as Squiffy. As his name suggests, Squiffy has the happy knack of being able to mix a whisky-and-soda to most people’s satisfaction.
The story starts with Sir Hugo on the golf course, after having been “at Bingley only two days and had played the 18th hole only six times.” I don’t play golf and I won’t be taking up playing anytime soon, but reading Doctor Sally let me experience the game at its very best, plus fours and all.
Doctor Sally very soon impresses Sir Hugo with her superior golf shots and they form a fast connection when they realise they are both members of the medical profession. Sir Hugo tells Sally of his greatest worry, that his nephew Bill, (Wodehouse is very fond of Aunts and Uncles and nephews and nieces), has become entangled and possibly engaged to Lottie Higginbotham, who Sir Hugo believes is most unsuitable for a Bannister to marry.
Regardless of Lottie’s many charms, Sir Hugo needn’t have worried, because Bill took one look at Sally and fell in love. Unfortunately Sally saw Bill as a wastrel and her heart was unmoved.
After the usual number of adventures, misunderstandings, hair-brained schemes and ridiculous events, things turn out happily for Bill and Doctor Sally. (I did not just spoil the ending for anyone, this was as inevitable as having a happy couple at the end of a Mills and Boon romance).
Squiffy add light relief to the book. He has already had a number of wives, including Lottie, who was his first wife. After he and Lottie parted, Squiffy had a second wife who ran off with a Frenchman, a third wife who ran off with a Spaniard and a fourth who ran off with a Brazilian. In my opinion, Squiffy should probably avoid having wives, but he and Lottie eventually decide to have another crack at matrimony together. No doubt their union will end when Lottie runs off with someone from India or Canada or New Zealand, but she and Squiffy will be happy while it lasts.
The plot of Doctor Sally is thin, but Wodehouse’s dialogue is, as always, brilliant and I laughed all the way through this book. I don’t know if the following examples are as funny out of the context of the book, but the following were my favourite lines from Doctor Sally:
Squiffy to Lottie, “I don’t know if you remember me. We used to be married once.”
Lottie, “If anybody’s been telling you I’ve a family, it’s not true.”
Sir Hugo to Squiffy, “What do you suppose is the matter with him?”
“Not been eating enough yeast,” said Lord Tidmouth confidently.
The only thing I really disliked about this book was the cover. Doctor Sally was written in the 1930s, and the edition I read was printed in 2008. The title is printed in an art deco font, and the colours and art are of the period, but the picture wasn’t quite right, with the characters depicted not matching my mental images of Sally and Bill.
Still, whinging about the cover art of this particular edition in no way reflects on the story, and it won’t put me off going back to Wodehouse again soon.