Thursday, November 22

Three Men and a Boat - Jerome K Jerome

J. (our narrator) and his friends George and Harris, to say nothing of the dog, journey up the Thames for a glorious holiday in mid-summer. Well provisioned,and with some experience of boating, they are nonetheless unprepared for a veritable cavalcade of misadventures - tow ropes that coil wilfully, confounded steam launches, and unopenable tins of pineapple.
This is my first reading of Three Men and a Boat; I was initially attracted, many years ago, by the author's name, but took it no further. Last year I read Connie Willis's lovely To Say Nothing of the Dog, which was inspired by the classic, and which inspired me to read a book I've since discovered is one of my mother's favourites.
Though first published over a century and a quarter ago, this classic novel of the late 1880's has weathered well, chiefly thanks to the timeless voice of J., whose dry observation on human nature illustrate how little people have changed, for all the change in our way of life. As I was reading it I (as is my wont of late) flagged passages that I might use to illustrate the style and voice of the writing. But Jerome's writing is all of a piece, so that rather than identifying a particular line or phrase, the enjoyment comes from a whole scene and from the characters. Although I do have one gem to offer: "That's Harris all over - so ready to take the burden of everything himself, and put it on other people's shoulders."
I did have two small issues - the first is that the novel is to short; the second was the annotation in my edition, by a Jeremy Lewis, who picked picayune things to comment on (like "We played at penny nap half the afternoon" - says Lewis "penny nap is a card game", something I was able to pick up from the context, but thanks anyway). Still, one can avoid end notes, and next time I visit the river, circa 1889, I will do just that. - Alex

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