Audiobook Review: Funny Girl by Nick Hornby

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Audiobook Review: Funny Girl by Nick HornbyFunny Girl by Nick Hornby
Narrator: Emma Fielding
Length: 10 hrs, 19 mins
Published by Penguin Audio on February 3, 2015
Genres: Historical, Humor
Source: Publisher
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four-stars

From the best-selling author of High Fidelity, About a Boy, and A Long Way Down comes a highly anticipated new novel.

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 ingnue 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.

I’d totally written Nick Hornby off in high school. See I made the mistake of going to see About a Boy in theaters when it came out. I think I was a freshman at that point. The movie might have been good, I’m not sure, but what I know definitively is that it was one of the most awkward films I’d ever seen. I spent the whole movie with my knees tucked up in front of me, trying to hide my face in horror. As an awkward teenager, watching other people be that level of awkward was physically painful. As a result, I determined that Nick Hornby’s writing probably wasn’t for me, mostly because thinking of him made me cringe in remembered awkwardness. In hindsight, that was rather silly. I finally decided it was time to give Hornby a shot, because British narrator, and it turns out that he’s rather talented, as people have been telling me all along.

Barbara from Blackpool has always dreamed of being a comedienne. She wants to be on the telly and make people laugh like Lucille Ball did. What really puts the fire under her ass to get moving is her parents trying to convince her to stay by entering her in a beauty pageant. The moment she wins Miss Blackpool is the moment she realizes that she absolutely has to get out, turns over her sash and crown, and heads to London to pursue her dreams.

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In London, she changes her name to Sophie because Barbara is just too Blackpool. Though she suffers some setbacks, she gets incredibly lucky and finds her big break. She does so by telling off the writers about their shitty script for a potential new comedy, Married Bliss?. The BBC is against the casting of an unknown, but the writers and producer push for her so hard that they get to try the comedy against an audience for one episode, which turns out to be a major hit.

I loved the view into British television in the 1960s, and I adored that the lens through which it was viewed was of a woman who dreams of being funny. Sophie’s gorgeous, and she loves that too, but it’s her ability to make people laugh that she’s really proud of. It’s also just so wonderful that she finds her niche, happens across the people who will appreciate her input and not hate her for it. With Clive, Bill, Tony, and Dennis, they formed the perfect team, accepting and supportive.

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Funny Girl tracks Sophie through everything in her life to do with the show, which ends up being titled Barbara (and Jim). Though most of the book is set during the run of the show, four long seasons (as opposed to the typical six episode seasons most BBC shows get), it ends with Sophie in her old age, as the cast comes together for a final reunion. There’s something a bit distancing about the overview, but in terms of the television process it’s fascinating.

The team starts out inspired, excited, and innovative, but as the years pass unique ideas are harder to come by. No one will be surprised that I was thrilled the addition of baby into Barbara (and Jim) ended up being the first of many signs the show was going downhill. Babies might improve some actual people’s lives, but they do not make for good television in my opinion. Everything has its season and eventually Barbara (and Jim)‘s came to an end.

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The characters are fantastic. Sophie obviously was a delight, and, though Clive’s a bit of a shit, I really liked the way their relationship was handled. Sophie engages in guilt-free casual sex and is very much empowered in the choosing of her sexual partners, which I adore. Bill and Tony’s partnership gave me a lot of feels. Both are gay men, who took two very different paths with their lives, in a society that didn’t yet accept gay people. Dennis is so charmingly naive in a lot of ways, and I just want to pat him on the head.

As someone who very much enjoys BBC comedies and television/film history, I thought Funny Girl was fantastic. I enjoyed the look into that world, and the characters and circumstances Hornby chose to do it. More Hornby novels are in my future.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

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