Monday 16 July 2007

Three Men In A Boat... is that all?

Today I finished Three Men In A Boat. I suspect that isn't how this day will go down in family history, since it was also the Carbon Copy's graduation - one of those events which is extremely exciting for about four seconds, and quite irrelevant for the remaining hundreds of hours. Even so, it wasn't too bad, and I made a respectable "wooo!" when Col tramped across the stage, which he claims not to have heard.

The other thing of note is that I have joined the list of links on Susan Hill's blog - thank you Susan! If you've found Stuck-in-a-Book that way, then welcome, welc
ome, welcome. Even if Susan doesn't like Jane Austen...(!) Personality Test Results In Soon For Everyone. Maybe.

Back to Jerome K. Jerome. What a wonderful book! Three Men In A Boat is far too well known to get onto my list of fifty, but I'm still going to shout about how funny and well written it is. When I lent someone a book of AA Milne's sketches from Punch, they responded by saying Jerome's book was similar, and they are right. Though a 1889 book (according to my Preface) it feels much more 1910/20s than Victorian - lots of litotes and hyperbole in turns, absolutely everything is anthropomorphised (very amusingly) and basically the book is style, not plot. In fact, the 'plot' is that three men, er, go boating. Not forgetting Montmorency the dog. From this, the narrator 'J.' produces more a series of anecdotes than a narrative, though there is a central thread of the c
urrent outing, running, if you will, like a river through... no, sorry, too much. If you're looking to read a multi-layered Victorian novel, look elsewhere - but for an uncomplicated laugh, you can't go far wrong. And the postcard-bookmark I used was Ernest Proctor's Porthgwarra (c.1926) which I bought in a gallery in Cornwall.

Have they ever made a film of Three Men In A Boat? Somehow, I can't see the complete absence of plot working very well on the big screen...


  1. Yes, there was a British film made circa 1956, starring Laurence Harvey & Jimmy Edwards. It was embarassingly bad & must have deterred quite a lot of people from reading this delightful book.

  2. Recognised the postcard immediately as I'm from Penzance - feeling homesick now!

    Three Men in a Boat is excellent. I can also recommend After Supper Ghost Stories in which JKJ pokes gentle fun at the genre. I read a biography of him once. He led an extremely interesting life, fought in WW1 etc. Sadly, I can't remember the author but it was very good.


  3. It wasn't all, there was also Three Men on a Bummel. (Although I suspect that wasn't quite what you meant by your title.)

    Wasn't there a Griff Rhys Jones re-enactment of TMIAB in the last year or so on the box?

  4. Yes. The TV re-enactment had its hilarious moments - I particularly enjoyed the black fried egg, having managed similar camping disasters, likewise failing to convince my friends that it was 'meant to be like that'. Trying to open a can of pineapple without a tin opener also resonates - it doesn't matter how much gear you take on a trip, there is always something vital left behind.
    Griff Rhys Jones managed to point out that the boat trip was more in the mind than on the river. For summer whimsy, this book is perfect (especially curled up indoors as the rain streams down the window.)

  5. I keep hearing about this and it is always in a positive way--I will have to check it out.

  6. This is one of my favourite books but I am in the minority of finding Three Men on a Bummell even funnier. There is one episode featuring George and a recalcitrant hose that always has me weak with laughter. Idle Thoughts of an Idle Fellow is also well worth reading - Snowbooks do a lovely edition

  7. I love this book so much! I think I've read it three times. I'm not sure it is so well known over in this part of the world. I don't think I know anyone who has read it. So, I was glad to see it on your blog and hope it draws even more readers. There's a whole JKJ Society, as you probably know. I also liked the sequel.

  8. This was one of the first books I read on my Kindle. It was hilarious. My favorite character: The dog!


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