Wednesday, May 13, 2015
Book Review: Funny Girl by Nick Hornby
Author: Nick Hornby
Enjoyment Rating: ***
Content Alert: a little sex, some swearing
It's the 1964 and Barbara has just won a beauty pageant in her small town of Blackpool in the north of England when she has a revelation-- if she takes the crown, she will never escape her hometown. So she hops on a train to London, and within very short order, she snags a role on a BBC sitcom, changes her name to Sophie, and becomes the it-girl of her age. The story takes place mainly on the set and in the writers' room of that sitcom, Barbara and Jim.
Although I've seen High Fidelity and About a Boy, I think that Funny Girl is the first Nick Hornby novel I've ever read. Many fans of Hornby say it's not his finest work, but I thought it was thoroughly enjoyable. Hornby does a lovely job with the dialogue between the characters, and with the two levels of the story (the sitcom itself, which we never actually see, and the conversations surrounding the sitcom). However, the four guys in the book (the producer, the male lead, and the two main writers) are much more interesting as characters than Barbara is. I think even Hornby recognizes this, because he spends a lot more time with them, particularly with the two gay writers, who chose disparate paths and feel compelled to justify them to each other. So the book is definitely mistitled. I originally decided to read the book because my current podcast du jour, Pop Culture Happy Hour, was holding a book club on the book, and their resulting discussion is totally on point. The book is definitely enjoyable and Hornby is a master at his craft, but I couldn't shake the feeling that Funny Girl didn't quite live up to its potential. It's an easy, breezy, fun read, but I wanted more.