One of the things that has always fascinated me about P G Wodehouse is what he claimed to find difficult. You might have imagined that it was polishing his sentences that took the time and effort – those wonderfully unexpected similes, the back-and-forth of the dialogue, the comic timing in the prose rhythms. Not a bit of it. That stuff he cranked out by the yard: it was the plots that he agonised over. Who remembers a P G Wodehouse novel for its plot? But there’d be no novel without one – and, crucially, the struggle is nowhere on the page.
Michael Frayn’s new novel inhabits Wodehouse territory in that sense. Frayn wrote Noises Off – not just a staggeringly virtuosic farce, but a farce within a farce, a farce about a farce, a meta-farce in which every slammed door or dropped trouser is a plot point in two different stories