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on 24 January 2018
Our bookclub met to discuss/review Jerome K. Jerome's, "Three Men in a Boat - To Say Nothing of the Dog." AKA "Three Men Spend 5 Chapters Discussing and Packing Before They Even Get on the Boat." Way too many jokes to be had here so i'll move quickly on.

The book chronicles a 2 week boating trip made by Jerome with his 2 friends George and Harris. The trip starts out from Kingston upon Thames to Oxford and they are joined by Jerome's cat hating fox terrier Montmorency who enjoys adventures all of his own. It should be pointed out that Montmoreny is a fictional dog but those of you who are dog owners/lovers will see him as very much real. In any event he is very much part of the group.

The trip was initially meant to act as a break from the stresses of life with Jerome himself suggesting that he suffered from all the ailments that can possibly be thrown at humankind.

The book was also meant to act as a serious travel guide blending their experiences with an insight into the history of the places they visited on route. However, It was not to be as instead the comedy took over and i'm so glad it did. To be fair the anecdotes are sparked by the trip which acted as an effective memory jogger to the amusing tales that unfolded.

Don't get me wrong I love to travel and I enjoy history but it has to be on my terms and I personally had little interest in the history connected to their stops. Others, i'm sure would have preferred the more serious approach and I'm also certain that other writers have covered their desires with their own publications.

One of the collective suggested that it was very much like a Ronnie Corbett monologue where during the famous segment in The Two Ronnies (preceding the closing musical number) he digresses much and often with quips/gags as he tells the audience the actual main body of a joke. It was a fine observation as the humour opens up while the tale of the trip is being told.

Another, felt it conjured up images of Compo, Clegg and Foggy from Last of the Summer Wine that classic, gentle and amusing British situation comedy. Yes, I can definitely see the connection.

I enjoyed the fall out that often happens on a boating trip or indeed a camping trip. Jerome, George and Harris are guilty of accusing the other of not pulling their weight but always justifying their own behaviours.

There are so many laugh out loud comical incidents to speak of but in short: -

Chapter 3 - Uncle Podger creating chaos while hanging a picture.

Chapter 4 - Advantages of cheese as a travelling companion (or not).

Chapter 7 - Mrs Thomas's tomb.

Chapter 8 - How Harris sings a comic song.

Chapter 12 - Disadvantages of living in same house with pair of lovers.

Chapter 13 - Montmorency thinks he will murder an old tom cat. / Shameful conduct of a fox terrier at the store. / Strange disappearance of Harris and a pie.

Chapter 14 - Harris and the swans, a remarkable story. / Irish stew.

Chapter 17 - Plaster of Paris trout, a fishy story.

Chapter 18 - The boating photograph incident.

I could go on and on.......

I could mention George's dodgy Banjo playing and his redemption in the final chapter when he is requested to play as all four sit in the boat enduring the dismal downpour of rain.

The book consists of many more great comical anecdotes that are as amusing today as they were when the book was published in 1889.
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Such a shame that such a classic was so cheaply reproduced. It was printed by Amazon. The cover is thin, curls after reading and the illustration is blurred. Text is printed in continuous form with no break of page to start a new chapter.Chapter 3, for example, begins at the bottom of the page with only 4 lines of text beneath. The charge for this amateurishly produced book was too much. It would certainly not take pride of place on a bookshelf and so I wish I had purchased a second hand copy from a reputable publisher.
This is not the first time I have been duped into buying a book printed by Amazon. Please Amazon, make clear that the copy advertised has been printed by yourselves, so that I can avoid any such mistake again.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 5 November 2015
When I read this as quite a young child, it seemed hilarious. I'm referring, for instance, to George and Harris rushing round in search of the butter, until realising that one of them had sat in it. Struggling dutifully through it more recently for a book group, it seemed rather silly and very dated, although I could still laugh at the succession of locals claiming to have caught the ever weightier trout encased on a pub wall, only for it to turn out to be made of plaster, when one of the clumsy three accidentally knocked it down.

I found a bit of research on the story much more interesting. Publication in 1889 was earlier than I had imagined i.e. not Edwardian. After the passing of the 1870 Education Act, and the extension of cheap rail fares giving people ready access the Thames, there was a sharp increase in the demand for amusing, easily read books and in the appreciation of boating as a pastime. This was perhaps a comic novel ahead of its time, much Victorian reading matter still being a bit sententious and worthy. So, there was a sharp contrast between the popularity of the book (which has never been out of print), and the snooty response of critics, even in Punch.

The author himself came from a once prosperous middle-class family which had fallen on hard times. So, despite his grammar school education, he had to start work as a young teenager, which obviously gave him a wide experience of life and the ability to relate to ordinary people. His unusual name was partly due to his father Jerome Clapp adding another Jerome to make it sound more distinguished. The "Klapka" came from a Hungarian who lodged with the family for a while.

I can see that what is really a series of amusing anecdotes, observations on daily life and snippets of local history on the areas bordering the Thames is appealing to us now in its innocence and nostalgic portrayal of a lost age. This probably remains a classic which you should read, the younger the better, although I doubt if a tale of three gormless middle-aged men rowing up the Thames more than a century ago would appeal much to this audience.
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VINE VOICETOP 500 REVIEWERon 26 September 2011
To journey up the River Thames in the company of J, George, Harris and, of course, Montmorency the fox-terrier is as good as having a holiday yourself.

From first to last this book is packed full of anecdotes, each more joyous than the last. But, while I do think it's the funniest book ever written, there's more to it than that. Written as a travelogue, Jerome tells us lots of interesting historical snippets about the little towns and hamlets along the Thames. And since the book was published in 1889 we get a second historical view of Jerome's own time - a view for once not of the upper-classes or of the poor, but of the ordinary working people in the middle and how they enjoyed their leisure time. One of the things that always surprises me about the book is that the interactions between the three men is so little different to what it would be today and the stories have a timeless quality to them.

As well as the humour, Jerome gives poetic descriptions of nature in all its glory and sometimes drifts off into historical imaginings. I know some people find these passages overly sentimental but I love them. They seem quintessentially Victorian to me and they are beautifully written, even when at their most over-blown. This book inspired me to travel up the Thames myself (in a car!) and visit some of the little places that still retain their individuality today despite many of them having been absorbed into Greater London.

I sampled several Kindle versions before choosing this one - Three Men in a Boat (Illustrated Edition). It was, as far as I could see, the best formatted and also the only one I could find with illustrations. The illustrations take the form of pencil sketches and are very well done - they add a lot to the overall enjoyment of the book for me. You can, as usual with Kindle illustrations, zoom in on them - useful for the smaller ones.

If you've never read this book, give it a try. If you've read it before, treat yourself and read it again. And if you think you know of a funnier book, please leave a comment - I always welcome tips!
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on 23 December 2010
First published 1889

Originally planned as a serious travel guide, Jerome K. Jerome's "Three Men in a Boat" became the most popular comic novel of the Victorian era. It details the boating holiday along the Thames between Kingston and Oxford, made by three friends, George, William Samuel Harris, Jerome and Montmorency, his Fox Terrier dog, when `skiffs' were the main stay of the 1880's enthusiasm for boating as a leisure activity.

The opening sentence of the book "There were four of us - George, and William Samuel Harris, and myself, and Montmorency" is beloved of quizzes where a book has to be identified by its first sentence.

Whilst it is claimed that Three Men in a Boat is `undated', and indeed human nature remains much the same today as in 1889, if you have read Enid Blyton and PG Wodehouse, you will recognise the style!(They were born in 1897 and 1881 respectively.) An example being: "`Get up you fat headed chunk!' roared Harris": and the meal eaten is dated: they `sat down to chops and cold beef'.

The three men undertake the boat trip as a change of scenery and a cure for the constant malaise they all suffer, convinced as they are, that they have every known aliment, from cholera to zymosis.

There are anecdotes a-plenty throughout the book: there is an amusing and amazing episode where the two men manage to get the Exeter mail train to take them to Kingston (upon Thames) where their boat is waiting for them.

Male sartorial elegance in dressing for the river is discussed, with a `boating costume' being spoken of. It is stated and agreed that "Girls, also, don't look half bad in a boat, if prettily dressed" - such a comment would surely result in the word `sexist' being used today!

There are various throw-away pieces/comments, for example referring to an iron `scold's bridle' in Walton Church: "They used these things in ancient days for curbing women's tongues. They have given up the attempt now. I suppose iron was getting scarce, and nothing else would be strong enough."

Indeed there is an anecdote and historical connection with every place they pass: rewritten it could indeed have been a serious tourist guide.

Current Victorian fads are mentioned: when they meet George at Weybridge he has a banjo "... they're all the rage this season: everybody has got them up the river."

Has it stood the test of time? - You may, personally, decide not - but read it as a 'classic' which is often referenced.
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on 13 July 2016
It's a book. I'm sure all the letters and words are in there. The pages seem to turn as they should and are numbered sequentially. Not really sure why I'm asked to review the workings of a book.

It's pointless me talking about the subject of the book because if you're here you obviously know what the book is about and are looking to buy it. So it would be bad form for me to spoil the story. Besides where ever you heard about this book will have no doubt said that it's a good read. So why are you reading these reviews and not buying it? It's £1.99....
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VINE VOICEon 23 April 2011
After reading so many glowing five-star reviews of this book, I'm pleased to say that it lived up to my expectations - I found it an easy, entertaining read, not to mention a genuinely hilarious one! I can't remember the last time I read such a funny book and I would recommend it to anyone who feels daunted by the thought of reading a Victorian classic.

The 'three men' are our narrator, J., and his two friends, George and Harris. When they decide they need a break, the three men (accompanied by Montmorency the dog), set off on a boat trip along the River Thames - and everything that can go wrong does go wrong!

What makes Three Men in a Boat so funny is that, despite the book being written such a long time ago, so much of it is still true of modern day life. Most people should be able to identify with at least a few of the disasters that J. and his friends recount. Some of the funniest parts are when the three men relate to each other little anecdotes about things that happened to them in the past - my favourite was George getting up and going to work in the middle of the night because his watch had stopped and he thought it was morning. I also loved the story Harris told about the time he got lost in Hampton Court Maze.

During their journey up the Thames, we are given lots of historical and geographical facts about the places the three men pass in their boat; these sections read almost like a travel guide and I suspect they might have been of more interest to me if I lived near the Thames and was more familiar with the area. I also don't have any interest at all in sailing, rowing or boats in general so a lot of the boating jokes went over my head - but I suppose I shouldn't really complain about there being too much boating terminology in a book called Three Men in a Boat!

Whether you'll enjoy this novel or not will depend on whether you can connect with Jerome K. Jerome's sense of humour. If you can't then you might be disappointed because the book doesn't really have a plot, other than the outline I've given above - so if you do read it I hope you'll be able to laugh at it as much as I did!
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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 27 January 2001
Jerome K Jerome's classic account of the hilarious mishaps of three men (and a dog) on a boating holiday on the Thames offers much more than a straightforward narrative of their experiences. The book concerns itself with witty and touching observations on the trials and tribulations of everyday life and gives sharp, accurate and amusing insights into human nature. The language the author uses is imaginative but succinct, and you find yourself reading back over his prose in admiration. But the real beauty of the book is that many of the ideas on the world which JKJ wrote over a hundred years ago are strikingly relevant today.
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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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