When I saw Jerome K. Jerome’s Three Men in a Boat on a list of most humorous novels and being so widely appreciated, a skeptical eyebrow went up automatically. I had thought that the book was grossly overhyped. But it was when I picked it up and started reading it that I truly understood why it was getting the footage it was getting. Now, both eyebrows are scrunched as I laugh great tear-inducing jerks of laughter.
There are novels that try to be humorous, that try to be a type of funny that crawls up on you. But Three Men in a Boat isn’t one of them. Unlike novels of those times, this one, maybe because its characters are based on real-life characters (the author and his two friends), is so much more relatable. You laugh without feeling obliged to. And Jerome’s narrative is so humorous, it puts modern humor to shame. Almost every page leaves you in splits, resonating even after 128 years of it being published. There isn’t a single moment where you feel disconnected or tired of the narrative.
An account of how the narrator J. and his two friends George and Harris decided to go on a little boat trip, Three Men in a Boat is a hilarious novel that deserves its place on that list I was talking about earlier.
In the midst of all the humor, he has levelheaded statements that you can hardly ignore as novel continuity. Jerome K. Jerome has predicted these little events with a precision worthy of praise. Here are a few of them:
- Will the prized treasures of today always be the cheap trifles of the day before?
- We are creatures of the sun, we men and women. We love light and life. That is why we crowd into the towns and cities, and the country grows more and more deserted every year. In the sunlight – in the daytime, when Nature is alive and busy all around us, we like the open hill-sides and the deep woods well enough: but in the night, when our Mother Earth has gone to sleep, and left us waking, oh! the world seems so lonesome, and we get frightened, like children in a silent house. Then we sit and sob, and long for the gas-lit streets, and the sound of human voices, and the answering throb of human life. We feel so helpless and so little in the great stillness, when the dark trees rustle in the night-wind. There are so many ghosts about, and their silent sighs make us feel so sad. Let us gather together in the great cities, and light huge bonfires of a million gas-jets, and shout and sing together, and feel brave.
- We never ought to allow our instincts of justice to degenerate into mere vindictiveness.
- How good one feels when one is full – how satisfied with ourselves and with the world! It is very strange, this domination of our intellect by our digestive organs. We cannot work, we cannot think, unless our stomach wills so. It dictates to us our emotions, our passions.
In a snippet he shared about George, he puts across the point of how people see things that directly affect them. If they have nothing to do with it, they’ll find it amusing. If not, they’re the last persons on Earth you want to cross. And that’s the level of subtlety that any author should aim for! Level Three Men in a Boat!
The humor is so good, so well-timed! It is difficult to make excerpts of all of them because of the sheer number. But here are a couple of them:
- Even Reading, though it does its best to spoil and sully and make hideous as much of the river as it can reach, is good-natured enough to keep its ugly face a good deal out of sight.
- You roll it up with as much patience and care as you would take to fold up a new pair of trousers, and five minutes afterwards, when you pick it up, it is one ghastly, soul-revolting tangle. – He’s talking about tow-line, but he might as well be talking about earphones!
How could one novel be such a versatile mix of humor, thoughtfulness, and Romance? Though, I have to admit, at one point (just at one), I felt that he digresses into an unnecessary, serious description of something years gone past have seen. But Three Men in a Boat still row along to victory!
You read Three Men in a Boat knowing that something funny will punch you in the gut, but you’re still not prepared when it does. The fits of giggles are sometimes too much to handle. In a good way, of course. So much that reading this book made me snort with laughter in the middle of a coffee shop.
Three Men in a Boat is an account that puts modern humor to shame. No novel has made me laugh so much, so hard! It’s the subtleties that Jerome K. Jerome infuses that I find most amusing. In the most absurdly commonplace way, he brought out chest-clenching laughter from me. In the end, I could only think of how brilliant the book is and how glad I am to have picked it up!
It’s a classic, Three Men in a Boat! It is only now, after I have read it, that I truly understand why it is so. And I would be doing the book a grave injustice if I gave this book any less than a thunderous, resounding 5 stars!
Rating: 5/5 stars
P.S. I cannot stop gushing. Like a fangirl. I seem to do that a lot nowadays. But it isn’t bad when you pick good books and good movies, is it?