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Blandings Castle #12

Sunset at Blandings

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With the sun finally setting on that wondrous earthy paradise that is Blandings, Vicky Underwood finds herself forcibly parted from her beloved, Jeff Bennison. Her Uncle Galahad turns his not inconsiderable talents to reuniting the love-birds. Wodehouse's final chronicle of Blandings is unfinished, but three Wodehouse admirers have supplied a treasure trove of notes and plot details, providing fascinating insights into the mind of the author.

151 pages, Paperback

First published November 1, 1977

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About the author

P.G. Wodehouse

1,625 books6,300 followers
Sir Pelham Grenville Wodehouse, KBE, was a comic writer who enjoyed enormous popular success during a career of more than seventy years and continues to be widely read over 40 years after his death. Despite the political and social upheavals that occurred during his life, much of which was spent in France and the United States, Wodehouse's main canvas remained that of prewar English upper-class society, reflecting his birth, education, and youthful writing career.

An acknowledged master of English prose, Wodehouse has been admired both by contemporaries such as Hilaire Belloc, Evelyn Waugh and Rudyard Kipling and by more recent writers such as Douglas Adams, Salman Rushdie and Terry Pratchett. Sean O'Casey famously called him "English literature's performing flea", a description that Wodehouse used as the title of a collection of his letters to a friend, Bill Townend.

Best known today for the Jeeves and Blandings Castle novels and short stories, Wodehouse was also a talented playwright and lyricist who was part author and writer of fifteen plays and of 250 lyrics for some thirty musical comedies. He worked with Cole Porter on the musical Anything Goes (1934) and frequently collaborated with Jerome Kern and Guy Bolton. He wrote the lyrics for the hit song Bill in Kern's Show Boat (1927), wrote the lyrics for the Gershwin/Romberg musical Rosalie (1928), and collaborated with Rudolf Friml on a musical version of The Three Musketeers (1928).

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5 stars
367 (35%)
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400 (39%)
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207 (20%)
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39 (3%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 64 reviews
Profile Image for Dan Schwent.
3,005 reviews10.6k followers
September 1, 2011
After falling in love with a man her mother deemed unsuitable, Victoria is whisked away to Blandings Castle until she "comes to her senses." Meanwhile, her uncle Sir James Piper has to take her to Blandings and finds that an old flame of his is staying there. How can these hearts ever be mended? Uncle Galahad to the rescue!

Here we have the unfinished novel P.G. Wodehouse was working on at his hospital bed at age 93. Even though it's a fragment, all the Wodehouse trademarks are there: lost love, imposters, and misunderstandings abound. Uncle Galahad uses his smooth pimpery in order to make things right. A Wodehouse novel is like running into an old friend and picking up right where you left off.

Aside from the novel fragment that takes up half of this book, there are also Wodehouse's semi-coherent notes on how the book was to end, speculations on the real life location of Blandings Castle based on travel times mentioned in the text, and end notes galore. While I would have preferred a complete novel to end the Blandings Saga, there wasn't much to complain about here, as long as the reader is aware it's a fragment coming in and not a complete novel.
Profile Image for W.
1,185 reviews4 followers
July 20, 2020
P.G.Wodehouse was 93 when he died,and he was at work till the end.This is an unfinished manuscript,Wodehouse left notes which show how he intended to allow the plot to unfold.

There are plenty of specimens of Wodehouse's handwriting,which is a bit hard to decipher.

This cannot be treated as a typical Wodehouse novel.It is more of a collector's item for a Wodehouse fan and a book which is tinged with sadness,as it was the master's very last work.
Profile Image for Douglas Wilson.
Author 273 books3,653 followers
November 28, 2019
The novel Wodehouse was working on when he died. I read the Overlook Press edition, and it had a bunch of extra material (e.g. a review of the outlines Wodehouse has, so you know how it ends, not to mention a reconstruction of the original for Blandings, not to mention the Empress). Really worthwhile.
Profile Image for Steven R. Kraaijeveld.
502 reviews1,764 followers
October 10, 2020
Sunset at Blandings is Wodehouse's final novel, left unfinished at the time of his death in 1975. Having read all of the other Blandings novels, I waited for some time to read Sunset, knowing that Plum had been unable to apply his usual polish. I didn't want to be disappointed—and, thankfully, I wasn't. The novel has some wonderful moments and was, on the whole, very readable despite lacking a conclusion. This edition is helped by scholarship that provides information about Wodehouse's writing process, links to previous works and characters, and plenty of clues about how the story might have been finished. Aside from a nice little introduction, it also includes several appendices—the scenario written by Wodehouse that outlines the story's potential development, as well as two 'origin stories' about, respectively, Blandings Castle (detailing the real-life settings that culminated in the fictional Blandings) and the Empress of Blandings (spoiler: she's based on a real pig!).
Jeff was one of those rare young men whose hearts, once bestowed, are bestowed for ever. In a world filled to overflowing with male butterflies flitting and sipping and then moving on to flit and sip somewhere else he remained as steadfast as Jacob or any of the others who became famous for their constancy. He had fallen in love with Vicky at their first meeting and he had been in love with her ever since, and the fact that he was now so low in her estimation made no difference to him. He had friend who in the same position, deprived of the girl they loved, would have consoled themselves with the thought that there would be another one along in a minute, but this easy philosophy was not for J. G. Bennison. The current situation made J. G. Bennison feel that hope was dead." (91-92)
Profile Image for S. Suresh.
Author 3 books10 followers
March 6, 2022
It is impossible for me (perhaps even improper) to rate Sunset at Blandings, Wodehouse’s unfinished novel. Had he completed it, it would have been his 71st novel (12th in the Blandings Castle series). Sadly, at a ripe old age of 93 years, Wodehouse died of a massive heart attack on 14th February 1975, with his unfinished work by his bedside in the hospital.

As published, Sunset at Blandings is a draft of the first 16 chapters, along with the exhaustive notes maintained by Wodehouse about the plot of his final project. These notes have been curated exquisitely by Richard Usbourne, giving us a good idea of what Wodehouse had planned about the remaining 6 chapters.

Usbourne’s notes and analysis offers an excellent insight into Wodehouse’s extraordinary work ethic, something he sums up thus:

“He (Wodehouse) had always been very serious about his work of being funny.”

While Sunset at Blandings may not be for everyone, Usbourne’s detailed text annotations, info and illustrations of Blandings Castle and its surroundings are a treat to any true Wodehouse fan.
Profile Image for Darcy.
330 reviews1 follower
March 21, 2008
This was so bittersweet because it was P.G. Wodehouse's last book and it was unfinished--they published it just as he left it when he died. It made me so sad because at the end they published all of his notes about how the characters might be changed before he was finished, but I didn't read all of the notes and commentaries. I just want every pearl-like word just as it was from the master's hand. I've never read anything of his that struck a sour note, or anything that wasn't witty, endearing, and full of sunshine. It's wonderful to have something you can count on in this world, and P.G. Wodehouse has never let me down. Of all of his characters, I loved the ones at Blandings Castle the most--that veritable Garden of Eden on this earth. Therefore it was so fitting that this would be his swan song. I think they were his favorites, too.
Profile Image for Anand Ganapathy.
212 reviews34 followers
December 6, 2016
Sunset at Blandings is the first draft of PGW 's last novel ( work in progress ) when he passed away at the age of 93. The master of humour had lost none of his charm in this book. The usual Blandings plot - an imposter smuggled into the Castle by Gally as a painter commissioned to paint the Empress , sisters of Lord Emswoth against the idea, a niece not allowed to marry her impecunious suitor......wonder how it would have all ended.
Profile Image for Lloyd.
29 reviews4 followers
March 7, 2020
This is the book Wodehouse was working on when he died in on Valentine's Day 1975. It is unfinished; but, anyone familiar with the workings of Blandings Castle can come up with an appropriate happy ending.
I must admit reading that last sentence was a bit of a gut punch. But, this Overlook edition adds some great research into the inspirations for Blandings Castle and for the Empress of Blandings as well.
Profile Image for Heman.
155 reviews3 followers
November 4, 2020
This is an unfinished novel, the last of Blandings castle series, last worked on by the 90 year old Wodehouse on his hospital death bed. The interesting thing is the glimpse behind the prolific write’s workings, character development and so on. And of course as always, his work is peppered with comically superb phrases that are the joy of reading Wodehouse: “His emotions on finding himself closeted with Florence somewhat resembled those of a young lion tamer who, entering the lion’s cage, suddenly realizes that he has forgotten all he was taught by his correspondence school.”
1,345 reviews
November 26, 2017
The novel itself is about two stars; the supplemental material adds anothern (too bad spellcheck doesn't recognize this common hoosier term). The manuscript was a rough draft when Wodehouse died (16 of 22 chapters written; much revision evidently not yet done). It's a little flat, but PGW had not yet added the shine.

The extra material is interesting. One is a 15-page discourse that looks at all the train times from all the Blandings novels and tries to work out where in Shropshire the fictional castle was supposed to be located. There are more than enough train nerds in Britain to get it pinned down pretty closely. There is also a long look at the castle itself, again from the whole body of work (complete with maps and diagrams!). And the text of the novel itself is annotated, often interestingly (by a very big Wodehouse nerd!). So every Blandings fan needs to pick up this edition of the last entry.
Profile Image for Jon.
1,325 reviews
April 6, 2021
I didn't rate this book because I didn't read it. I learned belatedly that Wodehouse died before finishing it, leaving sixteen partly completed chapters out of a projected twenty-two. He almost certainly would have revised even those sixteen quite extensively. Even the title is not his, but was supplied by the publisher. But this is an interesting edition, with roughly half the pages being taken up with examples of his notes and plans for the rest of the book. A wonderful corrective for anyone who thought Wodehouse could just toss these things off without effort.
Profile Image for Andrew Fish.
Author 8 books10 followers
June 1, 2015
And so it has come to pass. After fifteen years, Everyman have completed the mammoth task of publishing the collected works of the master. And, although the order has been a little erratic, they have finished with what was Wodehouse's final work - the incomplete Sunset at Blandings.

Reviewing the book itself is difficult. The plot follows the usual Blandings formula of insinuating a would be lover into the castle under an assumed name (in this case Smith) and with an assumed job (painting the Empress) but the machinations of the plot have barely begun to machinate when, unfortunately, Wodehouse left us. It's not quite as frustrating as Hancock's missing page, but it does rob one of a little joie de vivre to think that one has read the last page of the last Wodehouse.

Of what there is, this being a first draft there's a little rough stuff round the edges (Wodehouse was always keen to get the plot complete before fine-tuning) but it reads better than many finished works by other authors. Acknowledging that this is probably a book more for fans than casual readers, this edition comes with notes to explain how the book might have progressed and is rounded off with two light and fascinating articles seeking out the locations that inspired Blandings and the pig that inspired the Empress.

Looking, then, on the serried ranks in my display bookcase, I see a body of work that has been published with the respect due and which would grace any house with joy and laughter. I doubt it'll be long before I read them through again - if only because I haven't been on Goodreads long enough to have reviewed them all.
Profile Image for Ian Wood.
Author 111 books6 followers
July 1, 2008
Wodehouse was working on this novel, subsequently titled ‘Sunset at Blandings’ when he died and such is his, and Blandings, popularity that even some thirty years after his death and its initial posthumous publication that it is still in print. The part of this book that is the first half of the last Blandings story sets the plot out beautifully and it is, of course, a tragedy that it wasn’t finished. However this is a Wodehouse Blandings story and we know the leads eventually elope and the good people are warmed to their cockles whilst the bad people are slightly disconcerted by the series of events.

The book also includes Richard Usborne’s analysis of the notes Wodehouse left and on what he imagined the rest of the novel would have contained and some extensive notes as to Wodehouse’s working methods which are very interesting and illuminating. These sections are keen to point out errors that they assumed Wodehouse would correct later in the draft and many a disclaimer that much of Wodehouse’s fantastic prose would be inserted later and although this is no doubt correct there is still plenty of fantastic prose to keep most of us entertained.

Other sections of the book are a great many footnotes compiled by Tony Ring and Norman Murphy’s essays on the model for not only Blandings itself but also the Empress.
Outside of the fragment of the novel the best part of this book is the forward by the now also late Douglas Adams, definitely the best foreword I’ve ever come across and an ideal opener for this, Plum’s last writing.
Profile Image for Phillip.
673 reviews49 followers
September 8, 2015
This can`t be regarded as a first-rate Wodehouse, nor a first-rate Blandings story because it is an unfinished first draft. The book represents 16 of the planned 21 chapters that were on 90 typed manuscript pages found in Wodehouse`s hospital room upon his death at age 93. It is the 11th and last of the Blandings stories. His previous 1974 best seller was the last of the Jeeves and Wooster stories. It is nice that he rounded off his long writing career with novels from those two beloved series. Though unfinished, the book is a pleasure to read for the Wodehouse aficionado.
Profile Image for Stuart.
334 reviews2 followers
October 27, 2011
The Master's final unfinished novel. Probably for Wodehouse fanatics only, but given that he had no opportunity to revise and flesh out (not to mention complete), it's very enjoyable. The endnotes in the version I read provided a fascinating look at this author's structuring and outline process--complete with ideas he rejected. Evidently, he was working on this novel the very morning he passed away on Valentines Day at age 93.
Profile Image for K..
887 reviews112 followers
March 5, 2017
Last Blandings novel, in hand and unfinished at Wodehouse's death. So sad. Delightful as ever.

On Vicky:
"Here was plainly a niece whose soul had been passed through the wringer, a niece who had drained the bitter cup and, what is more, had found a dead mouse at the bottom of it."

On Jeff:
"'Jeff,' he said, 'you look like the seven years of Famine we read of in Scripture. You could go on and play King Lear without make-up.'"
123 reviews2 followers
January 3, 2018
SPOILER: I didn't know this was his last and unfinished novel. Fun story but sad it was left up to a biographer and critic to give me the final synopsis. Extras such as Wodehouse's manuscript notes were interesting. Critics notes somewhat interesting.
Profile Image for Simon.
1,031 reviews4 followers
January 6, 2022
You come to the end of chapter 16 and suddenly there you are: no Gally, no Lord Emsworth, no Beach...no PG Wodehouse.

No-one has made me laugh more.
Profile Image for Elizabeth.
Author 1 book7 followers
September 21, 2020
This work is really three works in one: an unfinished novel by P. G. Wodehouse, a set of notes by Wodehouse relative to the novel (along with comments from the editor on the state of the notes and Wodehouse's general writing process), and some essays on the world of Blandings Castle by the editor.

I consider this novel unratable. On the one hand, there is the beginning of a novel by P. G. Wodehouse, but it is far from the finished piece. Wodehouse generally worked through huge revisions between first draft and publication (including occasionally revamping major elements of the plot). To give this a low rating would not take into account what a preliminary work this was at his death. To give it a high rating would not be fair to his own standards (and would mislead potential readers).

If you read this at all, do so because you not only love the work of Wodehouse but also because you are fascinated by the writing process. The editor has provided large excerpts from Wodehouse's notes (so that you can see exactly how much revision even of the seemingly finished pages there was left to do), as well as an explanation of his normal writing process.

The third part of the book includes musings on the practicalities of Blandings. After reading the books, most readers probably want to visit Blandings (either as proper visitors or as clever impostors). The essays that round out the book go into the physical layout of the castle and grounds, the place of Blandings in the geography of Shropshire, and the train timetables for Market Blandings, based on a close comparison of the books and actual time tables for trains at the periods in question. Would-be visitors can now add a little more flesh to their reveries.
Profile Image for Tim.
373 reviews8 followers
August 13, 2020
Final and uncompleted, this reads as if PG realised he wouldn't be around much longer. It's charming as most of his books are, though much of the brilliance of his books is a product of the extended polishing process that he did not live to complete here (he didn't complete the story either).
The book is bulked out with some pretty second-rate endnotes - which at times make the ludicrous error of judgment of trying to be funny. Not a smart move in this company. More valuable are a few pages of Wodehouse's working notes, which give some real insight into his creative process, and also in passing show how, naturally but still a bit shockingly, Wodehouse the note-to-self-maker had a style no better than yours or mine in that mode.
So, strictly one for the ardent fan - even then not really a great choice for the holiday hammock - but for said a.f. there is both pleasure and instruction to be had.
Profile Image for Joe Stevens.
Author 3 books1 follower
June 9, 2021
I have always considered it great good fortune that this novel was never finished. The Blandings saga had already been wrapped up nicely by the previous book in the series and Wodehouse writing had tailed off significantly in his last decade. The likelihood that this would have been a strong novel was nil. Just as Aunt Aren't Gentlemen was a poor ending to the Jeeves and Wooster sage which had wrapped up nicely with its previous novel, so Sunset was unnecessary.

As it stands it serves as a nice tribute to a man who could never stop writing. It also shows us something of his methods which included something of a rough draft to be fluffed up with comedy. This unfinished work is the unfinished draft so we get some idea of what the skeleton of a Wodehouse novel looked like before it was fleshed out.

This is a novelty for the fans and shouldn't make the reading list for the more casual reader and certainly not someone looking for a first taste of PGW.
Profile Image for Erik.
334 reviews15 followers
July 16, 2021
It's an odd thing to read a book and know that the author is about to die at any minute, but that is the case with this novel. Sunset at Blandings was the book PG Wodehouse was working on in the hospital, back in 1975, just before he died of a heart attack.

I've always put off reading this book for that very reason. It was the last work of a great comedy master and it was never finished. After about 100 pages, all we have are the extensive notes that Woodhouse prepared to show us how the story would have unfolded. It's a very unsatisfying read, because you know that Wodehouse likely would've ironed out a lot of the flaws in this story if he'd only had the time.

Still, you can't help but be impressed by the man's dedication to his craft. He was 93 years old and hospitalized, but he was still hard at work at what he loved best. For that alone, this book deserves a high rating.
Profile Image for Alex.
418 reviews2 followers
December 30, 2020
A entertaining if somewhat sad part novel, the last of the Blandings adventures. While sticking to the tried and tested Blandings formula, I enjoyed it greatly. I felt a little sad while reading this, knowing it was the last Blandings and one of Wodehouse's last novels.

I found the notes by Richard Osborne very interesting, rounding out the novel, letting us know what Wodehouse had planned out for this novel, before he sadly died, leaving it unfinished.

So comes to an end my near year long adventures in the world of Blandings Castle. I have enjoyed the experience but found some of the later books a little formulaic. My favourite novels were 'Something Fresh' and 'Summer Lightning'.
Profile Image for Chet Makoski.
301 reviews1 follower
February 13, 2021
Wodehouse wrote 16 skeleton chapters of this last chronicle of Blandings that was to have gone to 22 chapters. Sunset at Blandings provides those 16 chapters with Wodehouse's hand-written notes and analysis by Richard Usborne of how the book might have completed. Usborne also provides two appendices, one on The Castle and its Surroundings, and a second on The Trains Between Paddington and Market Blandings. Also included are illustrations by Ionicus of an area view of Blandings Castle and its surroundings, as well as ground floor and first floor floor plans of the castle.
May 12, 2019
The last of the series & never completed due to Wodehouse having passed on during its writing - so a little sad & unsatisfying. Lots of notes after on what his plans were for the novel & how his writing worked. I luckily was able to get this book as it was an Inter Library Loan & they were cut from our library's budgets 4 days after this book came in!
834 reviews3 followers
January 24, 2022
This was Wodehouse’s final book. He died while it was still a first draft and only the first 16 chapters were complete. It’s a fascinating read for fans because it’s possible to get a view at his writing process. What is written is quite good. The book also includes footnotes and a theory about how the book might have been completed.
576 reviews4 followers
June 17, 2017
Such a shame that Wodehouse didn't get to finish this. On the other hand at least he died in the midst of Blandings - not such a bad way to go. The editor does a marvellous job of putting together PG's notes but they don't compare to the finished article.
195 reviews1 follower
October 27, 2020
The end of Wodehouse's work. In addition to the 2/3 of a novel, copious notes are included, as well as a reconstruction of the region around Castle Blandings, a map of same, and a master train schedule.
Profile Image for kerrycat.
1,870 reviews
December 21, 2020
this really made me sad, as he was working on it when he died (left it unfinished), even in his hospital bed. classic Wodehouse, plus a lot of his notes, details about his process and the little world he created at Blandings Castle, and more. a must for any Wodehouse fan.
Profile Image for Derelict Space Sheep.
1,106 reviews15 followers
November 20, 2022
The final, unfinished Wodehouse novel. Much like Pratchett’s ‘The Shepherd’s Crown’, the un-fleshed-out text stirs memories of what was, while throwing light on the authorial process. In this instance, Plum-worship has led to the adding of copious and mostly inconsequential third-party annotations.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 64 reviews

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