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.
CHRISSI: What were your first impressions of this book?
BETH: The last thing I read from Nick Hornby was About A Boy and that was quite a while ago! I guess I was expecting more of the same – something amusing with a few sad bits about normal people. Essentially, that was what I got so I was quite happy. I really enjoyed the characters and the setting of the swinging sixties at the beginning but this didn’t carry on across the book unfortunately and I didn’t enjoy it as much as About A Boy.
BETH: Discuss the character of Barbara – are her hopes and expectations fulfilled?
CHRISSI: A good question. I think Barbara is a really interesting character. I feel like she believes she lives a very mundane life at the start of the book, when in fact she’s living a life that most people would love to have the chance of. She escapes to London to start to live her dream. We’re told that she’s doing really well in London and that the critics are loving her, but as a reader we don’t get to see her in a funny light most of the time! Barbara gets what she wants with her TV show and certainly as a reader we believe that she has fulfilled her expectations.
CHRISSI: The novel is a homage to the golden age of 1960s sit-coms. How does the author re-create the era?
BETH: I loved the ways in which the author did this. There were nods to classic radio and TV programmes made in the sixties, famous actors and faces in the sixties like Lucille Ball and her classic sit-com I Love Lucy and I especially loved the photographs that the author included in the novel which really gave the reader a sense of time and place.
BETH: What did you think of the relationship between Barbara and Clive?
CHRISSI: I didn’t believe in it at all. I didn’t really feel a connection between them. I was a little disappointed if I’m totally honest.
CHRISSI: Discuss the ending of the novel (without spoilers!!!)
BETH: I would describe the ending as quite bitter sweet and reflective, if anything when compared to the rest of the novel which is quite light-hearted. It’s like the end of the day when all the comedy is done and you’re too tired to laugh any more so you take a look back at your life and give a big sigh! Saying that though, I did enjoy the slant the author put on it.
BETH: Was there anything you disliked about this book?
CHRISSI: I felt like it lost momentum halfway through. I really liked the start of the book and felt like it had a lot of promise but it began to become a little stale and uninteresting in parts, which was a shame. I was also expecting the book to be a lit more humorous than it was, given the title.
CHRISSI: Did you have a favourite character? Why/Why not?
BETH: Well, I think the main character of Sophie definitely had a lot of potential and at the beginning of the book I thought she was going to be my favourite but I’m not sure she really worked as the novel went on. She wasn’t half as funny, brash or independent as I had hoped she would be. I did love the characters of Bill and Tony, one an out and out gay man, the other struggling as a gay man in a straight marriage with a baby – yikes, how did that happen?!
BETH: Would you read another book by this author?
CHRISSI: I think I probably would. I didn’t have a problem with the writing style and I have liked Nick Horby’s work in the past. I just don’t think this book was necessarily his best.
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