Margin Notes: Funny Girl
From the bestselling author of High Fidelity, About a Boy, and A Long Way Down comes a highly anticipated new novel.
Set in 1960's London, Funny Girl is a lively account of the adventures of the intrepid young Sophie Straw as she navigates her transformation from provincial ingénue to television starlet amid a constellation of delightful characters. Insightful and humorous, Nick Hornby's latest does what he does best: endears us to a cast of characters who are funny if flawed, and forces us to examine ourselves in the process.
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
For me, this was a solid 3.5 stars--enjoyable, written well, but no real pizzazz. A little disjointed.
Nick Hornby is a great author--he has quirky characters who have interesting lives and notions, and this book is no different. It centers around a young woman in 1960s outside of London, who wants to be a comedian. It's a path not much pursued by women in the 60s, so there's no path for her to follow. She is beautiful, but no one takes her ambition seriously, so she leaves Blackpool and goes to London and lucks into a job on a TV show. She hits it off with the writers and her costar and her star rises. It's a success due to the witty script (she's always pushing for more actual humor) and her beauty and due to the take on British life for most people. It takes place at the UK starts becoming modern.
I really liked the characters who were part of the TV show Barbara (and Jim). I did, however, have a cast in mind for some of the characters as I read this book which was probably problematic. Younger Hugh Grant was Clive, younger , British Scarlett Johannson was Sophie/Barbara, Colin Firth was Dennis...Bill was Ewan McGreggor.
I felt like there was an opportunity to do more here. Sophie's awakening to the 60s could have been a little more interesting. She just takes a chapter to read up on politics and changes her views. I wanted to see more of what she thought--as a woman struggling to become a professional she could have had more dialogue about conservatism vs. liberalism, although maybe I just missed it in the text about tories and north vs. south of England, which I didn't totally grasp.
I was definitely rooting for Dennis in the end, and for Bill and Tony. I knew from early on that Dennis and Sophie would get together, when they finally do, it seems rushed and odd. I wish we saw Sophie come to the realization she was in love with Dennis a bit more naturally. I was so happy that they made a good life together and had children and good memories. For Bill and Tony, it was sad to me that Bill (who denied his sexuality, poor June) ended up happier than Tony. It felt a little cliched or almost easy to make Tony the spend-y, washed up, alcoholic. He took a chance and I would have liked to see him rewarded for that, or at least for there to be some heft behind the explanation that he ended up that way.
The last part of the book sort of felt sad to me. The whole reunion of the cast and exploiting nostalgia of older people to sell some theater tickets, yuck. I did like that they got back together and that there was a sort of hope, but it felt like this book went out with a whimper, not a bang, which was too bad.
Overall a fun read, but nothing I'd highly recommend.
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