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Three Men in a Boat Paperback – May 8, 2015
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"Three Men in a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog)" follows the author, his two friends Harris and George, and a tagalong fox terrier named Montmorency as they plan a boating holiday along the Thames river. They anticipate a leisurely time taking in the sights of the river, camping out, and enjoying the fresh air. What they get instead is unexpected comedy as they struggle with their uncooperative boat, bicker with one another, and have unexpected run-ins with colorful characters along the way. And while the author occasionally pauses to wax poetic about the scenery and the history of the land they pass through, he's also not above recalling some disastrously hilarious anecdotes... or poking fun at his companions and himself along the way.
While some of the content of this book might be slightly dated nowadays, there's plenty of humor to be had that's fresh and relatable today. Many can relate to some of the comic bits of this book -- going to a party to find someone necking in every corner, a singer who's utterly ignorant of their own terrible singing skills, and dogs that look adorably innocent but are secretly troublemakers at their furry hearts. There's even a section where the author reads a medical text and convinces himself he has nearly every disease in the book -- the 19th-century equivalent of "Googling your symptoms." And there's an unexpectedly prophetic bit where the author wonders if the boring everyday objects of their age will become priceless collectibles to people in the year 2000...
The story does wander a fair bit, and the author quite often pauses in recounting their journey to bring up some event prior to the story. I forgive most of these asides because they're hilarious, but some people might not appreciate the frequent deviations from the plot.
As for the characters of this book... if George and Harris are based on real people, it's a wonder they made it down and up the river in one piece. I'm sure many of their flaws are exaggerated for comedy purposes, but they can be so inept and lazy that it's hilarious. These are characters that would be right at home in a Monty Python sketch... which is perhaps the point.
A word on this particular Kindle edition -- it appears as if it originally contained pictures, but said pictures were cut out, leaving their captions behind. This is a little annoying, but it doesn't ruin the book for me. Just a warning, however, to other readers...
A delightfully funny read that remains fresh and relevant even a hundred years later, "Three Men in a Boat" was just as good as Reddit claimed, and great for anyone who needs a good laugh. Who says that classic literature has to be stuffy, slow, and boring anyhow?
It's Twain meets Monty Python meets Chaplin.
If you like that sort of thing, I found that a particularly good series was this book, followed by the Harriet Vane portion of Sayer's Peter Wimsey books (Strong Poison, His Carcase, Gaudy Night, Busman's Honeymoon), followed by the Connie Willis books The Domesday Book and To Say Nothing About the Dog. All are witty, and the last Willis is an homage to Three Men in a Boat and the Wimseys.