Three Men in a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog) by Jerome K. Jerome: B+

From the back cover:
“There were four of us—George, and William Samuel Harris, and myself, and Montmorency.”

Three men, and a dog, in a boat on one of the prettiest waterways in the world—the Thames—in summer. Idyllic, wouldn’t you say? Perhaps, if George hadn’t insisted on camping, and if someone had remembered the can-opener, and if… well, maybe not idyllic, but certainly hilarious, as you’ll discover when you take the trip yourself with three men and their dog.

Typically, things deemed “hilarious” rouse in me only a smile, but this book really did elicit a large quantity of giggles and one all-out cackle. This last, however, was the result of a bit of creative license taken by the fabulous narrator, John Rainer (who sounded like a cross between Sylvester McCoy and Ringo Starr—a compliment, I assure you!), where he added some panting sound effects to a bit of doggy dialogue. I seriously rewound it, like, six times and made other people listen to it, too. His performance was responsible for making this book even funnier than it ordinarily would have been.

The premise of the book was simple: believing themselves to be generally ill, overworked, and in need of rest, a trio of friends decided it would be beneficial to their health to have a jaunt up the Thames. What followed was a mix of travelogue, silly mishaps and escapades, random and tangential musings, and the occasional rhapsodic ode to nature. The majority of the time, these were entertaining—I particularly liked the segments on “delights of early morning bathing” and “disadvantages of living in same house with pair of lovers”—but occasionally, especially in the case of the rhapsodic odes, it got rather dull. It seemed the end was especially laden with these episodes and so, in consequence, dragged.

I was a fan of British humor to begin with, but I definitely enjoyed this book more than I’d expected to. I’ve heard the sequel, Three Men on the Bummel, isn’t quite as amusing, but I’ll probably check it out all the same. Rainer doesn’t appear to’ve recorded it, alas.

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