Funny Girl by Nick Hornby
Funny Girl is the story of Barbara from Blackpool who dreams of being a female comedian, a la Lucy from I Love Lucy. She moves to London after giving up the title of Miss Blackpool, wanting to get out and pursue her dreams. After only a few short months, her beauty lands her an agent, and she goes out on an audition for a terrible comedy, “Wedded Bliss.” Of course the men creating the show, the writers Bill and Tony, the co-star Clive, and the producer Dennis, fall immediately in love with her and rewrite the show for her. Barbara, now Sophie Straw, is the title character in the new BBC comedy, Barbara (and Jim).
The book, while focused mostly on Sophie and her experience on the show, and then later, her looking back on her life while in her golden years, is really more of an ensemble piece. The story focuses on each of the core five characters from Barbara (and Jim) throughout the course of the novel, and it explores the nature of relationships, both working and non, and these characters really breathe life into the story.
The story itself is fun if you’re a fan of television, particularly ‘60s British sitcoms, and it’s enjoyable to watch some of that firsthand. It’s also a parody of not only that era of the BBC and British television, but also the musical Funny Girl, about a funny girl who isn’t that attractive and wants to be taken seriously as an actor. The writers are constantly bickering over the story becoming too “stale” and “boring,” and others complain that entertainment is taking over the world and filling it with junk rather than intellectualism.
Also, I listened to this on audiobook, and the narrator epitomizes that classy, British woman from the 60s. It definitely helped my enjoyment of this novel.
Sure, not a lot happens and much of it is predictable and happy, but it’s an enjoyable read overall.