Home > classic, Genre, humorous > Book Review: Love Among the Chickens by P. G. Wodehouse

Book Review: Love Among the Chickens by P. G. Wodehouse

Old book cover with man chasing chickens.Summary:
Jeremy Garnet, a novelist, is living a relatively quiet bachelor life in London when his old school friend Stanley Ukridge shows up.  Ukridge is starting a chicken farm with his wife, Millie, and wants “Garnie old boy” to come stay with them.  He’ll get to write in the country in exchange for a few hours of work a day.  In spite of the fact that Ukridge is planning to run the chicken farm without any prior knowledge or studying “the better for innovation, my boy,” Garnie takes him up on it.  Of course, life with the eccentric Ukridge surrounded by chickens isn’t quite the quiet writing environment Garnie was planning on.  Not to mention the Irish professor neighbor’s lovely daughter that Garnie can’t quite get out of his head.

There’s no doubt about it.  Wodehouse is pleasantly droll.  It was, however, necessary for me to remind myself a few times of the time period this was written in as certain portions had the feminist in me going “Whaaaat?!”

Ukridge and Millie are a delightful couple.  He’s got zany ideas; she’s endlessly supportive.  He clearly is madly in love with her and vice versa.  They’re exactly the sort of people I would want as neighbors, because you’d never get bored with them around.  Ukridge doesn’t mean to do wrong by anybody.  He just doesn’t get how society thinks it should function.  He does everything his own way, and Millie is along for the ride.

Wodehouse also manages to actually create personalities in the animals that are around from Bob the dog to Edwin the cat to Aunt Elizabeth the evil chicken (named after the aunt that didn’t want Millie to marry Ukridge).  The animals are a part of everything that is going on.  The characters actually talk to them, interact with them, and the animals respond.  It’s something that happens in my own life, but that I don’t usually see in books, so I was delighted to see it here.

On the other hand, chickens are only half of the title, and I must say, I was not fond of the love half.  Garnie’s relationship with Phyllis just hit all the wrong notes for me.  First, Garnie claims to have fallen in love with her at first sight upon seeing her on the train, yet at that portion of the book all he talks about is how lovely her eyes are.  Sounds more like lust to me.  Then there’s the fact that Phyllis’s personality stinks.  She’s dull, boring, and frankly rude.  She’s square under her egotistical father’s thumb too.  I don’t see what Garnie sees in her.  Then of course there’s the fact that Garnie pretty much stalks her for a portion of the book.  He goes to her father’s farm every night after dusk, sits in the bushes, and listens to her sing.  That’s creepy, but when he tells her later, she laughs and is delighted.  People!  Stalking is not romantic.   Gah!

I wish Wodehouse had simply written about Ukridge and Millie, as they are clearly the couple that is actually interesting.  In spite of the fact that he didn’t do that though, I really liked this book.  People who appreciate a book for the scenes in it and not the overarching plot will like it as well.

4 out of 5 stars

Source: Librivox recording by Mark Nelson via the Audible app for the iTouch and iPhone

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  1. May 3, 2010 at 5:22 pm

    This sounds good, but I worry that the gender things would bother me as well :\ As much as I tell myself that these are older books, I just can’t help my modern sensibilities.

    • May 4, 2010 at 9:44 am

      I know exactly what you mean. For me, in this book, the comedy managed to overshadow the gender issues enough that I wasn’t irritated throughout the book. I just had to suffer through a few cringe-worthy moments, but that’s different for each reader, which is why it’s good to know ahead of time.

  2. May 4, 2010 at 10:07 am

    Cool review–Love all things Wodehouse. Though yeah, a lot of it does sound stalk-y. A lot of books/movies/etc. turn out that way.

    • May 4, 2010 at 3:15 pm

      It’s one of those romantic storyline tropes that really needs to disappear from literature.

  3. May 4, 2010 at 2:07 pm

    I haven’t read this one, but I love the stories about Ukridgde in his carefree (and zany-scheme-happy) bachelor days. One of Wodehouse’s funniest characters, in my book.

    The depictions of women and love in Wodehouse’s work are certainly antiquated, and impossible to approach from a serious modern view, but it helps to remember that even at the time they were written, they were a parody of empty upper-crust courtships and cinematic romantic collisions. As for Wodehouse’s women, unflattering a portrait though it is of our gender, keep in mind that his male characters come off no better. In fact, the women in his stories on the whole tend to come off as smarter, or at least more devious.

    All of his characters are meant to be taken as empty-headed and thoroughly irredeemable society bounders. Such is the magic of light drawing-room farce! Anyway, glad you enjoyed his spectacular writing — double-glad that you’re opposed to stalking as a seduction technique. (Twilight anyone?)

    • May 4, 2010 at 3:17 pm

      Wow, I actually found a Wodehouse story you haven’t read? Lol, I thought you’d read them all!

      Notice, I didn’t say I disliked all of the women in the book. I said Phyllis’s personality made me doubt even further Garnie’s claim that he fell in love with her so quickly. In general I have issue with the depiction of the romance, not the depiction of the female characters.

      However, romance in literature, unfortunately, often rings false.

  4. July 14, 2010 at 8:46 pm

    I loved his Jeeves so I must try this. I saw the audiobook in an app. Think I’ll download it.

    • July 15, 2010 at 8:18 am

      Yay! It is a funny story. I hope you’ll enjoy it. You know, reading it made me curious about Jeeves. I’ll have to check that out myself. 🙂

  5. July 19, 2010 at 2:51 pm

    Wait, the cat’s name is Edwin? Oh, that’s too, too funny. (I should explain: Have you read the Olivia books by Ian Falconer? Her cat is named Edwin, and that’s such an uncommon name I’m willing to bet that Falconer took it from Wodehouse.)

    • July 20, 2010 at 7:59 am

      I haven’t read the Olivia books. Are they good? They seem to have left a fond impression on you. 🙂
      That’s a cool fact to know! Thanks for taking the time to comment.

      • July 20, 2010 at 2:46 pm

        They are FANTASTIC! Well, the first few are. The latest ones are a bit blah. Olivia is one my favoritest picture book characters ever 🙂 And the random allusion that few people will get (and probably no children) is totally Falconer’s style.

      • July 21, 2010 at 8:32 am

        Thanks for the info!

  1. June 11, 2010 at 8:31 am
  2. February 14, 2016 at 1:02 am

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