Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome

Rating: 3 Stars
This 19th century book is still considered a classic of English humor. If the lists are to be believed, according to many Brits, it is among the funniest books of all time.
It’s a fictionalized version of a boat-trip honeymoon down the Thames that the author had made with his wife. In the book, the Narrator, ‘J’, given to chronic hypochondria and his two friends – William Harris and George - decide that that a vacation is just what they need to offset their ennui. Packing what they consider the bare essentials, along with a rambunctious fox terrier, they head off for a fortnight of sight-seeing, roughing it, and mild adventure.
The humor of the book is gentle, free of hard edges – which would perhaps explain its appeal. Jerome’s whimsical observations on human foibles ring true and funny even to this day, as for example, when he wryly remarks about his friend,
“That’s Harris all over – so ready to take the burden of everything himself, and put it on the backs of other people.”
One of my favorites was the amusing chapter on fish(y) tales. It just goes to show that the ‘whoppers’ the anglers bragged about landing, are nowhere as big as the whoppers they told.
The book also reads as a breezy English travelogue of the age with enough asides to interest the amateur historian. Jerome’s tone is conversational, and he frequently goes off tangent, taking the scenic route before he gets to a point, but then that’s part of its charm.

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