on 18 May 2004
It seems that human nature hasn't changed much since Victorian times! This collection of anecdotes, observations and witticisms is a true classic, completely unaffected by the passage of time. The author's understated, self-deprecating style of humour had me roaring with laughter virtually from the first page, and even now - a week after finishing it - I still find myself chuckling at odd moments when I remember certain turns of phrase.
I was put off reading it for a long time because for some reason I had got it into my head that it was a rather heavy-going political satire. I don't know where I got that idea from, but I couldn't have been more wrong. It's a gentle, easy read. Not much plot to speak of - just the tale of three friends (and a dog) taking a boating trip up the Thames. Full of mishaps, humourous reminiscences and spot-on comments about the ridiculousness of human behaviour, it makes ideal back-garden reading for the summer.
Highly recommended. If you've never read a classic and want an easy one to start with - this is it!
My first recollection of encountering this classic maritime adventure, written by Jerome K Jerome, was in the 70s when I attended a one-man show in which Jeremy Nicholas recounted the story of three men and a dog and their trip up the River Thames. In true tradition the tale was recited, not without error, to a large audience in a comedic style that reminded me of PG Wodehouse, another of my literary heroes.
Jeremy Nicholas's career has been based almost entirely on this one author and he went on to become the President of the Jerome K Jerome Society. I never forgot that performance and it gave me a taste for Jerome K Jerome and his stories.
It was not until three decades later that I encountered this unabridged rendition of this classic story by Martin Jarvis whose name will be instantly familiar to listeners of the 'Just William' and 'Jeeves and Wooster' audiobooks. Martin's comic delivery, animated style and energetic story-telling ability is strongly reminiscent of that of Jeremy Nicholas and for this reason I can heartily recommend this recording.
This recording is, of course, the unabridged version which I much prefer. However, to tell this tale requires 6 CDs and over six-and-a-half hours of listening time. It may be long but it is never boring. It is a complex and steadily evolving adventure story about a boat trip up part of the River Thames. For the most part it is full of humour but it does have its darker moments.
The recording is supplied with a small, 12-page booklet that describes the content of each of the six CDs and also contains a mini biography of Jerome K Jerome and how he came to write Three Men in a Boat.
on 28 August 2005
I first came across this in the school library when I was 12 (35 years ago!) I have read it and re-read it again and again. In a desert-island-disks type moment I chose it as one of my quintessentially English books to take with me when I went to live in the USA for a year. I cannot read it in public - or in the presence of my wife due to the unstoppable sniggering that it induces in me (and the rolling eyes this induces in her!). I love the 'Maze' scene and am laughing now just thinking about it. The hypochondria opening is a classic moment too (Housemaid's knee!)
Please read it - yes it's Victorian humour, but it's STILL funny today.
I was devastated when I found it was number 101 in BBC's 'Good Read' 100 favourite books ever list a couple of years ago - Shame on the BBC!
on 2 January 2006
It's a wonderful book. Harmless escapism and lashings of good humour. What could be more pleasant? It's one of my favourite reads. Three men, one dog and a row boat - sometimes lazily and sometimes energetically pulling up the River Thames, having endless adventures, calamities and runs-in with the consequences of "Murphy's law". I wondered if I would enjoy listening to it as much as I enjoyed reading it and I'm delighted to report that Hugh Laurie has done an excellent job of this abridged reading . It's not surprising really. His television interpretation of Bertie Wooster is spot on for that character, and the character of J. (the author/narrator, Jerome K Jerome) in this tale, is so similar in many ways to Bertie - in attitude, speech mannerisms etc - that Mr Laurie seems just perfect for the role. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to all the outrageous exaggerations, boasts and scenic descriptions, read in exactly the voice I imagine J. would have. I've listened to it twice so far and will, no doubt, listen to it whenever I need to be cheered up.
There are 2 CDs in the box and the running time is two and a half hours.
on 17 October 2004
I first picked this up at age of about 11, from the bookshelf in a guesthouse where I was staying for a few nights with my parents. I was in a room by myself, and apart from a couple of shouted requests to shut up, was left to hold my sides and laugh as quietly as possible.
I'm now 52, and have a wonderful original copy which I have read time and again, and still get requests from my fiancee to shut up and stop laughing.
It doesn't matter how many times you read it. This is quite simply the funniest book ever written in the English language. Yes, it's based in an age long gone; but it's great to know that self-effacing, typical British humour hasn't changed one iota.
Any Englishman who hasn't read this is the poorer for it!
on 26 March 2001
When an author's name is Jerome K. Jerome, you know you are in for something special and this book does not disappoint you. Originally conceived as a guide to the River Thames, Three Men in a Boat, is the funniest, maddest book you are ever likely to find, about something as simple as idling down a river. The book ranges far and wide beyond the scope of either a travel guide or a memoir. It is full of little anecdotes about such things as barometers and hypochondria. It makes mention of the pleasures and perils of having your boat towed by girls. It explains the dangers posed by swans and the trauma caused by tinned pineapple. Whilst the language is from a bygone age, the book is never stuffy or boring. The humour is as fresh today as it was when Queen Victoria was on the throne. This book is so funny that I had to stop reading it on the London Underground where laughter and frivolity are frowned upon.
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.
on 24 August 2001
If this book proves one thing, it is that good humour is ageless. Jerome K Jerome shows his mastery of wit and words in this hilarious tale of three batchelors on an eventful boat trip. There is a great depth to the modes of humour, which keep the reader chuckling from page to page. It makes you wish you could sit next to the author at a drunken dinner party and hear his hilarious tales first hand.
on 9 April 2001
I picked up an old war time copy of the book. It had been lurking at the back of my bookcase for as long as I can remember, but I felt like reading something clean and amusing. What a great choice! I think this must be the funniest book I have ever read. The tears ran down my face. I laughed out loud in public places. I could not believe it had been written in the 19th century, the humour seemed so fresh and relevant. If you want just a rollicking good laugh on every page, with the funniest images flicking through your brain, I would recommend this book as one of the most enjoyable I've ever read. Now I am going to get a new copy of it. Every page of my war time copy (made within economical rationing guidelines), fell out as I read it. I think it must have belonged to my grandmother.
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.