Thursday, November 1, 2007

Book Reviews: Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome

Three Men in a Boat, by Jerome K. Jerome, is the classic story of three friends and a dog taking a boat/camping trip along the River Thames from Kingston to Oxford, and is a masterpiece of understated humour. The three Victorian gentlemen are not well equipped to deal with the lack of luxury sleeping on a covered rowing boat delivers and most of the comedy is derived from the ridiculous mishaps that occur.

The style used by the author is very understated and "Three Men in a Boat" is a masterclass of how to go off on a comic tangent and enhance the story instead of detracting from it. I particularly enjoyed the tangents when the author believed himself to have every ailment in the medical dictionary bar one and the farcical description of his uncle putting up a picture. The beginning of this book is full of comic moments as the friends prepare for the trip and get used to their new routine on the boat, but the humour fades a little as the book goes on.

This is classic literature at its most readable but most of the enjoyment and fun are in the first half of the book, with the second half taking on a style more in keeping with travel literature although the journey is interesting in itself and one that has been much copied by others inspired by this tale. Whilst enjoying this book immensely I did feel a little let down by the latter stages as I the early chapters made me feel part of the fun whereas I felt very much like a spectator when reading the more descriptive chapters.

The three main characters in this story are typical Victorian, English gentlemen who work together like a comic ensemble, setting up situations that end with slapstick results; old-fashioned comedy but with such an understated style and rich vocabulary the writing is very enjoyable.

I would recommend this story to all readers from the age of about 10 upwards and of particular interest to those who like humourous novels. For readers considering tackling something from the classic literature genre, this would be a perfect book to start with because of its easy-to-read style and funny incidents.
Score: 8/10

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