In January I read Nick Hornby’s Funny Girl, so I’m right on track to win the TBR Challenge this year… just have to figure out which book in my pile I’m reading in February. February, which is half over. Hmm…
I’ve long been a fan of Nick Hornby’s. I’m not sure where I started with him–it may have been the copy of How to Be Good that I checked out from the library more than a decade ago and devoured. It could also have been About a Boy, which I can’t remember when I read, but it was long before the film version came out and long, long, long before the short lived television sitcom staring Minnie Driver. Or maybe I saw High Fidelity and chased down the novel it was based on. In any case, Hornby was an author I just clicked with immediately. I wouldn’t say that he’s the best novelist I’ve ever read, but there’s just something about his voice and his flawed, human characters that I get.
Funny Girl begins with Barbara, who is tired of small town ennui, so off she goes to the big city in search of fame. And she finds it. Of course, there are many ups and downs along the way–success doesn’t cure everything–and she finds love in the end.
Set in the 1960s, Barbara has a love of comedy and idolizes Lucille Ball. Her goal is to become a comedic actress, but upon arrival in London, she finds that her beauty makes it a little tough to be taken seriously. She wiggles her way into a few auditions, but with no real luck. She’s just not right for any of the parts. Another audition comes along and although she doesn’t think she’s at all right for this role either, it gives her an opportunity to meet the writers and an actor from her favorite radio comedy.
It turns out that she is funny and talented though and the writers see it in her immediately. They rewrite the script with her on center stage and the tv show is an instant success. Fame isn’t always easy to navigate for Barbara, who has changed her name to the more celebrity-sounding Sophie Straw. The novel widens to tell the story of Sophie and her co-worker’s travels on the trajectory of a television sitcom–instant success never lasts forever–but very much stays the story of a funny girl.
4It ends a little strangely, in my opinion. Maybe a little more “epic” and long-ranging than was necessary, but as I noted before, Hornby has a voice that I adore and I love every second I get to experience it. Overall, it’s a fun book with strong characters, if not a work of literary genius. I won’t complain and, furthermore, I’ll read every word of Hornby’s next book too.