British humor is known for its exceptional daintiness to the extent that it is sometimes difficult to grasp for other nationalities. However, a Jerome K. Jerome’s book “Three men in a boat” is an example of a humor that remains fresh and funny for more than hundred years already and is understandable not only for British. Moreover, it shows some of absurdities and snobbish traditions in a comic way. The novel is, truly, one of the most favorite funny stories all over the world.
The novel starts with introducing the main heroes – Jerome (a narrator), Harris, George, and a fox-terrier. First, we find our heroes at J.’s home discussing diseases and discovering that all of them suffer of overworking and need a rest. They prefer a boating holiday to country stay and sea trip because the last two are boring and J.’s brother-in-law had a bad experience with sea tour. The author describes Jerome and Harris being lost on the Waterloo station and bribing the driver of another train to take them to Kingston where they take the hired boat. Later they meet with George. We come across numerous incidents that happen to three men in a boat and also are lucky to learn many anecdotes connected with some landmarks and villages which the heroes pass by during their journey.
Historical and social context
The reception of this book differed a lot. Many of critics found it vulgar as the language of it wasn’t sophisticated enough for aristocrats and was written in the manner that appealed to common working-class Londoners. However, most of the commentators praised the books humor but judged the sentimental style of some sections.
The popularity of the book was very high right after its first publishing and remains the same till now. The novel was translated into many languages and had its film versions in different countries. Audiobooks are being released till now and listened to all over the world.
Jerome uses a rather deviating narrative style that allows him to broaden the scope of his narration. Heroes are providing various flashbacks and they make the story more interesting and let the reader know about the characters of Britain then. For example, a story about uncle Podger messing about a picture or a chapter about advantages of travelling with a cheese companion are really entertaining and, in fact, are far from river Thames travelogue.
Also, “Three Men in a Boat” has autobiographical features – Jerome K. Jerome got inspired for writing the story after his honeymoon with the first wife, which had the same route as the one described in a novel. Also, the perspective on social groups was initiated by the author’s belonging to lower middle class.
Personal commentaries on the book
The novel is one of the greatest examples in English fiction and is absolutely worth reading and re-reading. If you give it a second try you may find other interesting pieces of the same book and view it from a different angle. The novel is really short and easy to read unlike other novels from the 19th century and this makes it exceptionally attractive for the audience.