Some people think that all good books are serious, literary reads, with much death and destruction, or at least unhappiness. It is my mission to find books that are well written, enjoyable to read, and not remotely depressing. Here is a funny book which has been around for many years, refers to a long lost pursuit, yet still makes me laugh. Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome.
I first discovered this book in Cambridge, when as an undergraduate I was getting fairly book weary and ploughing through huge law textbooks. It is an autobiographical account of a journey along the Thames in Edwardian times, undertaken by J and his friends George and Harris. They are three young men who work in modest circumstances in the City who decide to take their holiday on a small boat. What follows is a very funny account of their preparations, their journeys and diversions. They have disagreements over cooking, eating and just how much work moving a boat along the river. George has brought a banjo, and its instruction book. Harris “who always keeps to shades or mixtures of oranges and yellows”, is sensitive about how much work he is expected to do. Inanimate objects conspire against them, tow-lines “try to knit themselves up into antimacassars the instant they are left to themselves”, boat covers collapse, and there is much difficulty in achieving the journey. Kettles must be ignored if they are ever to boil, but after food the party “sat and beamed on one another”. There are many anecdotes not necessarily anything to do with the boat, including a story of cheese that could not be stored or buried but eventually renewed the fortunes of a sea side resort.
The undoubted star of the book, however, is Montmorency. He is a small dog, but with a huge personality. He incites local dogs to passion, and expresses his personality forcefully. The famous quote is “The only one who was not struck with the suggestion was Montmorency. He never did care for the river, did Montmorency.’
This is a jolly book, a happy book, a book to make you smile. Silly, daft and redolent of a lifestyle gone by, a book of amusing events that everyone can enjoy.