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4.5 out of 5 stars
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4.5 out of 5 stars
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Imagine Bertie Wooster and two of his idiot friends out on a boat... with no Jeeves.

That about describes "Three Men in a Boat : To Say Nothing of the Dog," Jerome K. Jerome's enchanting comic novel about three young men (to say nothing of the dog) who discover the "joys" of roughing it. It's a light frothy little novel with plenty of wry humor and absurd situations, though Jerome injects some solemn, bittersweet moments into the mix.

The three men are George, Harris and the narrator, who are all massive hypochiandriacs -- they find that they have symptoms of every disease in existance (except housemaid's knee, for some reason). To prop up their obviously-failing health, they decide to take a cruise down the Thames in a rented boat, camping and enjoying nature's bounty.

Along with Monty -- an angelic-looking terrier with a mile-wide devilish streak -- the three friends set off down the river. But they find that not everything is as easy as they expected. They get lost in hedge mazes, end up going downstream without a paddle (literally), wrangle with tents, encounter monstrous cats and vicious swans, have picnics, navigate river locks, offend German professors, and generally get into every kind of trouble they possibly can.

Even though it was published more than a century ago, "Three Men in a Boat" remains as freshly humorous as when it was first published. While editor/playwright/author Jerome K. Jerome wrote a lot of other books, this book remains his most famous. And once you've read it, you'll see why.

Jerome's real talent is in finding humor in everyday things, like trying to erect a tent in the woods, getting seasick, or questioning whether it's safe to drink river water. Written in Jerome's dry, goofy prose, these little occurrances become immensely funny. One of the funniest parts of the book is when the boys listen to a fishermen telling of his prowess, only to accidently knock down his record-breaking stuffed fish.... and discover it's made out of plaster. Oops.

But Jerome takes a break from the humor near the end, when the boys find a drowned woman floating in the river. And here he becomes solemn and quietly compassionate: "She had sinned - some of us do now and then - and her family and friends, naturally shocked and indignant, had closed their doors against her."

But back on the funny stuff. The capstone on all this humor is the "three men." These guys are basically pampered Victorian aristocrats, who have a romantic yearning for the great outdoors -- so you can imagine how much fun they have with even the basics of outdoor life and all its problems. You'll be laughing at them and with them, as they struggle through the basics of boating and camping, and discover more problems as the story winds on.

Funny, wacky and creepily true to life, "Three Men in a Boat" is an enduring comic classic in the vein of PG Wodehouse. Not to mention the dog... or all the problems that await unwitting campers.
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on 14 November 2003
'Not as funny as Bill Bryson'?! That takes the biscuit. Three Men in a Boat is the funniest, wisest book ever written. A brilliant gem.
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on 28 June 2001
After reading this book, you would be shocked to find that it had been written so long ago. I'm not the most educated of people but this is one of the funniest books I have ever read. Everyday humour delivered in a timeless way. The characters are so realistic, with more than a passing resemblance to many people you know. You will wonder why everyone hasn't read this book. Funny, funny, funny. Thanks J.K.J.
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on 9 October 2006
If you don't enjoy reading at all don't buy this book, if however, you do enjoy a well written and hilarious novel buy it!!! I can't praise this book highly enough, very well written, laugh out loud funny in many places, and also though provoking - especially the part about overloading your boat with trivial belongings.

Many a night have I been shouted at by my partner for waking her up to read a particularly good paragraph to her!
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on 10 July 2003
A work of pure comic genius, the like of which may never be repeated again. Written in the late nineteenth century you would be forgiven for thinking that the humour of his book would be dated and fail to amuse the reader of today; you could not be more wrong. Jerome K. Jerome's easy, witty style and sharp observational humour make this the funniest book I've ever read, whilst he also manages to bring to life the charming world of the Victorian era. This book is beautiful, poetic, funny and sad. Don't miss reading it.
0Comment| 11 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
You don't have to be Lynne Truss to get annoyed by the use of double quotes instead of apostrophes, words that run together, etc. For something that claims to be carefully formatted, they didn't spend much time proof-reading this is all I can say. (The mis-formatting shows up on both the Kindle and on the Windows Kindle reader, so it's not just a device-specific problem).

Find a freebie version if you can.

[UPDATE: It gets worse. I just found a whole chapter repeated, line breaks in the wrong place - rating down from 2 stars to one now as a consequence]
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on 3 February 2004
This is a merry mirth maker and has been for over 100 years!
From the opening chapter you will be chuckling as you read of the antics of the 3 main characters as they prepare and set off for a sojourn by boat up the river Thames to "restore the mental equilibrium"
I thoroughly recommend it. Chapters are short enough to read on short trips if you commute to work on train, bus or...boat!
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on 13 August 1999
This is the first review ? Perhaps this book is perceived as beyond description, and maybe that's true. 'Gentle humour' is usually another way of saying 'not funny', but 3 Men in a Boat pulls off the trick of being gentle, wholly inoffensive and excruciatingly, side-clutchingly, pants-wettingly funny. The source of its humour ? Our old friend the absurdity of the human condition...
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on 25 October 2010
I think so!

It is a real, laugh-out-loud romp through a completely crazy boating trip up the Thames and I challenge you not to find something to chuckle over on every page!

The narrator is a pompous, self-congratulatory ass who seems entirely unaware of his own shortcomings while eminently critical of others'. The tone of the novel is tongue-in-cheek/ ironic with some unforgettable moments of true comic genius. I hesitate to outline any of the plot as I don't want to spoil it for you but I will say that the language and style are as fresh and immediate as anything you will read today.
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on 3 April 2005
I found this book extremley funny (laugh out loud) for the first couple of chapters, but then although remaining amusing it did not live up to the vibrantly cynical start, and getting a bit dry towards the end.
I would also say that I found the Wordsworth Classic rather difficult to read as the print type and spacing is very small and squashed, and the paragraph is something that seems to have been dispensed with in order to keep the book to as few pages as possible. This is something I have found with others in the Wordsworth Classics series and left me wishing I had stumped up for better printed versions.
11 comment| 12 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse

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