Thursday, October 04, 2007

book review - Three Men in a Boat

This is a pleasant book by Jerome K. Jerome to read but one that is a bit like a museum piece, a window into a world gone by. The Thames is still there and people still lark about on it in boats but the manners and behaviour of the people in this book have long since been eclipsed by a society populated with people who simply do not care about their environment.

The anecdotes are the sort that you aged uncle might share with you as he prepares for a snooze after a heavy Christmas lunch and the outcome of this book is similar. This is a pleasant experience but you are not going to be asked major questions as a reader, not going to be left dwelling on the content and mulling it over. That is not to say it is a waste of time but it is a bit like a hot bath at the end of a cold trudge home through the misty rain and should be seen as such.

Even as Jerome is describing the trip down the Thames with his two companions and his rather aggressive dog Jerome gets lost in the past. The banks of the river are described in terms of what happened there with Kings and Queens and the years of the Tudors rather than what is going on now. It is almost as if he realises, and the steam launches are a symbol of this, that the very journey he is describing is also a historical act.

The humour is pleasant and there are moments when each character gets a chance to have a comic moment with the dog also getting more than his fair share of the spotlight. Harris getting drunk and fighting with swans, George being the one to tempt them to throw in the towel and Jerome quite happy to share previous experiences of mishaps on the water.

Perhaps one of the reasons why this is seen as a classic is because it is a view of the world that is forever captured in print. A time when people actually cared for each other and enjoyed their environment without feeling the need to spray can it, burn it or leave rubbish all over it.

A pleasant read that does not demand too much of the reader. It deserves to be read because it is referred to so much by so many people but my suspicion is that it will not be a book you will return to that often.

Version read – Penguin paperback


Eloise said...

It is a lovely book, but it is Montmorency that makes it! I agree with you; although I enjoyed it, I have never felt the urge to re-read it unlike 'The Diary of a Nobody', for instance, which I've read many times.

simon quicke said...

Thanks for the tip I will dig out my copy of Diary of a Nobody I know there is one hanging around somewhere