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The Real Jeeves By Brian Halford

Release date: 12th August, 2013
Publisher: Pitch Publishing

List Price: £16.99
Our Price: £13.23
You Save: £3.76 (22%)
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Our brilliant new reviewer, Shaun Sharkey, considers a book about a talented cricketer whose surname enjoys worldwide literary appeal, but this has little to do with his sporting exploits.

Perhaps the first thing that strikes the reader when picking up a copy of Brian Halford's engaging and superbly well-researched 'The Real Jeeves' is an immediate sense of contrast.

Against a sepia background, a heavy crimson colour protrudes from both a cricket ball and a poppy, deliberately contrasting the conviviality and fun of hazy summer afternoons spent playing cricket and the dark spectre of the First World War.

Percy Jeeves was an outstanding cricketer as the series of contemporary reports, reproduced here, prove, but his fame came later, following the creation of his literary namesake, PG Wodehouse's ‘inimitable’ Jeeves.

Wodehouse saw Jeeves play cricket only once, but the author considered his name and on-field manner ideal in a different, non-sporting context as Bertie Wooster’s suave, urbane butler.

Tracking Jeeves career from his days as a precocious talent, Halford does an admirable job illustrating the cricketer's rise. His reports of Jeeves's performances are carefully detailed, often interspersed with anecdotes which add enjoyable spurts of pace to the book’s narrative.

Yet Jeeves’s story is of one man’s sporting talent denied – as so many were once they strode gallantly off to war. In every respect, war was responsible for yet another human tragedy.

George Orwell once suggested that the candid writing of soldiers on the Western Front was more touching and revealing than most of the contemporary literature produced by intellectuals. Halford succeeds in weaving some of these writings into the final chapters, ensuring that the harsh conflicts which came to dominate Percy Jeeves's life take on a palpable form.

Strangely, his life, in turn, suddenly becomes far more meaningful. The blurred afternoons playing cricket feel even more distant and poignant, reminding the reader of the senseless devastation caused by the Great War.

PG Wodehouse may have saved the Jeeves surname from anonymity, but Brian Halford has successfully told the tale of the real Jeeves who perished on the Western Front. His body, once capable of thrilling thousands of cricket fans, was never retrieved from the battlefield.


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