Friday, August 24, 2012

Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K Jerome

I never expected to find a comedy in nineteenth century British literature.  Not only did I find one, but for me, it worked as the primary topic of humor was all the conventions and idioms that I usually dislike in literature of this time.  It's a never ending stream of self deprecating humor that probably outraged as many as it made laugh.

Three friends (not one of which seems grounded, they all seem to simply exist and do very well for themselves without work or any duties in life) decide to escape the drudgery--and in the case of one, chronic illness of everything--and difficulties of their life by taking a boat trip down the Thames.  The humor is in part reconciling the romance of how they think the trip will play itself out against the reality of how it really is. 

Part of the comedy is based on the events of the trip, but just as much if not more is on past reflections or anecdotes that have nothing to do with the three men in the boat.  All the material is generally funny (my edition was made a bit easier by the notes in the back) but as to the actual narrative in terms of story telling I wished there was a stronger emphasis on the current trip down the river than the recollections of the chore that is hanging a picture or past boat trips with women doing the work.  It's all funny but only some of the material dealt with present events.

The book is very contemporary, and I imagine that people of the time got much more out of it than today's readers would be able to but none of the material is so esoteric as to not be enjoyed regardless of the book's age. 

I don't know what I was expecting but I enjoyed all that was presented.  It's short and easy to get through and seemed to be catering to those who've read English literature of the time and thought to themselves that all the characters involved were absurd.  Before this book I never would have guessed that British of the time had a sense of humor.  The book is more than worth a read based solely on one characters musical challenges with voice and a banjo.  

That's my two-cents.  For another look check out what Maria had to say about the same book. 


kimbofo said...

You probably can't get this in the US, but I highly recommend this BBC TV series where three comedians retrace the steps of the Three Men in a Boat book. It was screened a good few years ago here but was very good and very funny. But as a documentary on the Thames it was also completely fascinating.

Chad Hull said...

Well that looks interesting. Thanks for the reference; I'll be sure to check into it.

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