Book Review: Three Men In A Boat

Writing a truly good piece of humor is a difficult business. One can end up with something that reads like a cheap joke book, or something that tries so hard to be funny, it really isn’t. Of course, the goal is to land somewhere in-between these two dreadful extremes; to write a book that is intelligent, witty, and laugh-out-loud hilarious, all in one.

When I think of writers who have achieved this, the first name that comes to mind is P.G. Wodehouse. I consider him to be the greatest humorist in the English language. The next name that pops up is that of Jerome K. Jerome, and his comic classic Three Men In A Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog). Wodehouse aside, I’ve never encountered a funnier writer or a funnier book. Period.

Three Men In A Boat follows the escapades of three English gentlemen – and a dog – determined to experience the joys of “roughing it”. They hire a boat for a trip up the Thames, and promptly embark on a hilarious adventure where they soon discover that braving the great outdoors may not be everything they thought it would be.

The book is pretty much funny in every sense of the word, and as another critic aptly pointed out, “Jerome’s masterful style turns even the most mundane events into a series of hilarious epics”. Yet beneath all the light-heartedness, it’s plain that the author is also offering a sharp critique of selfishness and ignorance in the English upper class. The jabs are subtle but pointed, and careful readers familiar with Victorian society will catch on without much difficulty. Therefore, as a whole, you could consider Three Men a deft mixture of biting satire and brilliant comedy. Similar to Orwell’s Animal Farm -
just a whole lot funnier.

And the comedy really is brilliant. Jerome never resorts to bawdiness or crudity (as so many “humorists” do these days), and yet he never fails to pull a laugh from the reader. That, my friend, is good comedy. Consider the following passage, one of my favorites in the entire book:

It always does seem to me that I am doing more work than I should do. It is not that I object to work, mind you; I like work: it fascinates me. I can sit and look at it for hours. I love to keep it by me: the idea of getting rid of it nearly breaks my heart.

You cannot give me too much work; to accumulate work has almost become a passion with me: my study is so full of it now, that there is hardly an inch of room for any more. I shall have to throw out a wing soon.

And I am careful of my work, too. Why, some of the work that I have by me now has been in my possession for years and years, and there isn’t a finger-mark on it. I take great pride in my work; I take it down now and then and dust it. No man keeps his work in a better state of preservation than I do.

But, though I crave for work, I still like to be fair. I do not ask for more than my proper share.

But I get it without asking for it – at least, so it appears to me – and this worries me.

George says he does not think I need trouble myself on the subject. He thinks it is only my over-scrupulous nature that makes me fear I am having more than my due.; and that, as a matter of fact, I don’t have half as much as I ought. But I expect he only says this to comfort me.

Brilliant. Just brilliant.

There’s really nothing objectionable in Three Men, save for some English-style name calling and a bit of old-fashioned slang; and I’d say it’s appropriate for ages 12 and up (readers younger than that likely won’t benefit from the subtleties and cleverness of Jerome’s humor).

So, if you love P.G. Wodehouse, or are just searching for something funny to read, pick this one up. And make sure that when you do, you’re alone. That way, when you fall out of your chair in uncontrolled fits of laughter, you won’t have to worry about concerned bystanders calling an ambulance.

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About the Ink Slinger

19 years young. Redeemed sinner. Compulsive reader. Avid writer. Very muchly in love with the most beautiful girl on the face of the earth.
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19 Responses to Book Review: Three Men In A Boat

  1. I’ve never read Wodehouse or Jerome. It sounds like I need to remedy that!

    • Wodehouse is a must-read author, and I think you’d really enjoy his work. I haven’t read anything else by Jerome, but if his other books are anywhere near as good as this one, I’m definitely going to have to check them out…

      Thanks for the comment!

  2. persis says:

    I’ll have to check this out. It sounds like my kind of humor.

  3. I loved this review and wholeheartedly concur! You will like Three Men on the Bummel, but it didn ‘t delight me in the same way that Three Men in a Boat did.

    Online friends have urged me to read To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis. From what I gather, it is a science-fiction takeoff on JKJ’s book.

    • Thanks, Carol!

      I didn’t know there was a book called Three Men In A Bummel – now I’ve got to go look up “bummel” in a dictionary! :)

      I’ve heard of the Connie Willis book, but have never read it. Now I might just have to…

  4. Sherry says:

    Have you read To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis? If not, you might enjoy Willis’s take-off on the original by Jerome.

  5. Seth says:

    Wow, putting him up there with Wodehouse. That’s gotta be funny stuff.

  6. PrincessR says:

    I will have to look this one up! It sounds funny. Thank you for sharing!

  7. tanishq says:

    best book i have ever read

  8. I clicked on the picture but it didn’t give me a quick look. I believe you are trying to embarrass me on purpose.

  9. Kate says:

    It is a nice book!!!!!!!!!!

  10. anjali says:

    It is a good book

  11. mehrrules says:

    This really helped me alot

  12. nivedha says:

    The book was simply WOW!!!

  13. ANANNYA says:

    It’s quite intresting.

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