Monday, October 26, 2015

Funny Girl

by Nick Hornby
452 pgs

Barbara Parker is an aspiring actress living in England in the 1960s. She's a former beauty pageant contestant who flees to London to pursue her dreams of acting. Her role model is Lucille Ball, and like her, she wants more than anything to make people laugh. The agent she signs with tells her that with her looks she would be better off going after romantic lead roles. But Barbara has her heart set on following after her role model and so after changing her name to Sophie Straw, she auditions for the lead in a new BBC marital sitcom called "Wedded Bliss?"--and gets it.

The television series explores many of the social trends of the decade while giving audiences a good laugh, and oftentimes, something to talk about around the water cooler the next day. Physical comedy plays a significant role in the most popular episodes of the series and the ongoing and endearing tension between Sophie's character--ironically named Barbara--and her male counterpart Jim, give the series' writers plenty of inspiration to keep the series going for several years.

It's been a few years since Nick Hornby's last book, and while it's always nice to get a new one from him, this one didn't leave me as satisfied as either of his best books: About a Boy or High Fidelity. But it's an entertaining and enjoyable book that presents the idea that just because something is popular, doesn't mean it can't also be serious art. Hornby uses his two television writers to present the real meat of the story he's telling in Funny Girl, alternating between their story, which touches on more serious social topics, and the lighthearted path that Sophie's life takes.

★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

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