I read less English books and naturally, am very selective in this regard. My friends like Deepak M.R. and Deepa Swaminathan are big fans of P.G. Wodehouse and they had advised me to try a book by PGW. And finally, I have tried one which had been lying in my house for years without my knowledge (hidden in a box). It’s The Small Bachelor whose review comes before you right away.The Small Bachelor is a romantic as well as comic story which is interesting right from the beginning to the very end. It consists of a bachelor, George Finch who is financially well-off but makes paintings of not-so-good quality. He gets smitten by the beauty of Molly Waddington and being shy by nature, needs the advice and help of his regular trouble-shooter, Hamilton Beamish. Hamilton Beamish is a person of multiple talents and he has his own philosophy towards women and marriage. He, due to his that philosophy, is also unmarried and does not wish to change his status anytime in his life. However, being a genuine friend and well-wisher of Finch, he agrees to help him in getting the love of his life.
Contrary to his apprehensions, Finch gets an easy entry to the household of the Waddingtons because of his pleasant encounter with Mr. Sigsbee H. Waddington who is very happy to know that Finch comes from the same Western part of the province that he himself comes from. However he is a henpecked husband because of his financial dependence on his second wife who happens to be the step-mother of Molly. Even more pleasant surprise for Finch is his introduction to Molly who starts liking him since the very outset of their interaction. Later she expresses her love also for him. However Mrs. Waddington has already planned to marry her step-daughter to Lord Hunstanton and is not ready to accept Finch (or anybody else) as her son-in-law. But when Molly communicates her parents of her decision to marry Finch, Mrs. Waddington feels that she needs some information about Finch that is telling negative of his character and is able to help in repelling her step-daughter from him.
On the other side, Hamilton Beamish happens to come across a lady palmist, Madame Eulalie and immediately his total philosophy towards women and marriage is flown away in the stream of her charms. This is love at first sight for Hamilton Beamish who never believed in love of that sort. Now he has the dual responsibility of not only helping Finch in getting his love but also getting his own love in the form of Madame Eulalie who acts as the palmist to Mrs. Waddington. He also succeeds in winning her heart and the path seems to be smooth for the marriages of George as well as himself. However there are so many slips between the cup and the lip that take the story behond 260 pages and amuse the reader with the twists and turns in the tale. The characters like Finch’s erstwhile jailbird butler – Mullet and his pickpocket girlfriend – Fanny, the servant of the Waddingtons – Ferris, a police constable – Garroway who happens to be the student of Hamilton Beamish (he is an author as well as an English teacher) etc. are the additional characters who help in complicating the proceedings of the novel and adding spice to it. The story concludes in the fashion of all’s well that ends well after rendering a heavy dose of entertainment to the reader.
Putting it straight, I will not term The Small Bachelor as some great novel. All the same, its entertainment quotient is exceedingly high. In the final phase of the novel, certain things appeared to me as over the top and too many tracks appeared to be there to confuse the reader. However the seasoned author has handled all those tracks very skilfully and kept everything under his control, not giving the reader any chance to complain. It’s a novel which should be read for sheer entertainment that we expect from the regular rom-coms of Hollywood and Bollywood (and regional Indian cinema as well).
Written in simple English (with typical phrases and information creeping in at intervals), this novel is a treat to read and renders a romantic as well as humorous reading through its 261 pages. While reading this rom-com type novel, I felt that a lot many filmmakers of India might have drawn inspiration from this to make rom-coms for the typical Indian viewers who want to enjoy a movie without taxing their minds. I feel, this novel must have acted as a textbook for making movies like Shagird (1967), Raju Ban Gaya Gentleman (1992), Shreeman Aashiq (1993), Life Partner (2009) and many light movies made by Priyadarshan. Though it does not defy logic too much, there is no need to burden your brains for understanding and enjoying it. The story of this novel sails smoothly through its pages without too much effort and that’s something to admire wholeheartedly. The reader flows effortlessly with the narrative and moves on with the characters of the story as if he / she is the eye-witness to everything happening in it. This style of penning a romantic or humorous (or both) novel seems to have acted as a guideline for several pulp fiction writers in India for around three decades. The novel is well-knitted and everything is properly connected to everything else. There is nothing superfluous in this novel unrelated to the main story.
First published in 1927, this novel appears quite fresh when read today. It is enjoyable for not only the bachelors (like the two heroes of this novel) but also those who are enjoying the marital bliss. If you want to read some light stuff sans all kinds of profoundness to relax and enjoy, then please do read this novel which may not be able to make you laugh out loud but will definitely be able to generate a smile on your lips every now and then.
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