Nick Hornby, Funny Girl - "Make them laugh, and they're yours forever..."

James Walton

Nick Honby's long awaited novel, Funny Girl, carries the strap line: Make them laugh, and they're yours forever... Will this book stand the test of time?

The Synopsis:
It's the swinging 60s and the nation is mesmerized by unlikely comedy star Sophie Straw, the former Blackpool beauty queen who just wants to make people laugh, like her heroine Lucille Ball. Behind the scenes, the cast and crew are having the time of their lives. But when the script begins to get a bit too close to home, and life starts imitating art, they all face a choice.

Funny Girl Nick Hornby
Funny Girl, Viking £14.99

The Review:
Nick Hornby’s new novel is a stout defence of what popular entertainment can achieve—and a perfect example of it. The main character is Barbara Parker, a young female comedian, who in 1964 leaves Blackpool and heads for London to pursue her dream of making people laugh. It doesn’t take her long to realise it either: within months she’s landed a starring role in a hit sitcom. Barbara (and Jim) isn’t a show that’s liked by chin-stroking BBC beardies, who prefer their entertainment a little more high-brow. Nonetheless, as Hornby makes clear (again in more ways than one), just because something has mass appeal doesn’t mean that it can’t be winningly perceptive about human relationships and social trends.

As a “quick-witted, unpretentious, high-spirited, funny, curvy, clever, beautiful blonde”, Barbara might strike some readers as almost too good to be true, and there’s no doubt that Hornby is as smitten with her as every other man she meets. Yet, like the show, Funny Girl has a distinct tug of melancholy: not only celebrating the joys of youthful success, but also examining the rather longer-lasting business of what happens when that success fades. 

Read more articles by James Walton here