August 18, 2015

Review: Funny Girl by Nick Hornby

Title: Funny Girl

Author: Nick Hornby

Publisher: Penguin Viking

Date of Publication: 2014

Number of Pages: 342


Make them laugh, and they're yours forever...

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.

The writers, Tony and Bill, comedy obsessives, each harbour a secret. The Oxbridge-educated director, Dennis, loves his job but hates his marriage. The male star Clive feels he's destined for better things. And Sophie Straw, who's changed her name and abandoned her old life, must decide whether to keep going or change the channel.


My expectations for Funny Girl were pretty high since I was familiar with the other novels of Nick Hornby and I've enjoyed them a lot. In fact, whenever I would pick one of his books I would devour it within a day. Moreover, Funny Girl happened to be the last novel of the funny books themed read (the last one being a graphic novel) and I really wanted to have a nice finale.

First of all, I loved the setting of this novel. The '60s for the British comedy fit perfectly the plot. Sophie Straw wanted only one thing: to make people laugh. But she was in a decade when they were all men. Tony, Ernie, Eric, Ernie... There was nobody called Lucy or Barbara in that lot. There were no funny girls. Even her manager wanted her to pursue a career as a model, not star in a comedy series. It felt like a miracle of some sort that she managed to do so well.

But this decade also felt distant to me. I'm relatively new to comedy, so I had hardly heard of any of the comedians mentioned. When I researched the names for the Play(list) by the Book I began to understand the style of comedy that was popular then and so I felt more in context.

Although the title of the novel is Funny Girl, it's ultimately not only about Sophie. It's about five people getting together at the right time to create something innovative for television. Indeed Barbara (and Jim) was created when Tony and Bill met Sophie, their producer Dennis recognised the fresh idea and Clive saw his chance to become a tv star. Each one of them had their own lives and secrets, but they had found a point of communication that enabled them to reach success. As it usually happens in every relationship, this thing didn't last forever. Boredom, feelings of getting stuck, confusion of the fictional situations of the series with the reality were some of the things they all had to face.

The writing was the typical writing style of Nick Hornby. Quick-witted, funny, easy-to-read, but able to reach into the heart of the characters. Sophie wasn't as funny as I was expecting, but she was very likeable. The rest of the characters were also unique, each with their own history and choices they needed to make. But what impressed me the most is the fact that this could actually be the story of how a television series was created. Barbara (and Jim) was fictional, but I could imagine a pilot episode airing in Comedy Playhouse and then go on for several seasons.

All in all, Funny Girl sucked me into its world and left me feeling like I really knew Sophie, Dennis and the rest of the characters. It was a really quick read and I wish it were a little longer. Even though it wasn't perfect, I would recommend it to everybody. Don't hesitate to pick it up!

So, my advice is...

Be charmed by Sophie Straw from Blackpool!


  1. I never read anything by Nick Hornby but I'm very intrigued by the 60's British theme. I might check this one. I think the cover is pretty cute too!

    1. I love the cover as well! It fits the novel perfectly :)

  2. I too haven't read anything nick Hornby yet but I might have to after this! :)


    1. I totally recommend his books! High Fidelity, Juliet Naked, Slam, About a Boy, none of them disappointed me :)

  3. For all the things that I've read I don't think I've ever come across anything that takes place in the 60's. Oh, the 70's sure, but for some reason I just tend to land on either the decade before or after the 60's. Could you really feel the difference of time in the book? (Outside of the studio setting anyhow.)

    1. Well, it did matter that it was set in the '60s because one of the writers was gay and there was always the danger of getting imprisoned. Later, he wrote an autobiographical novel, a little before 1967, when the Sexual Offences Act was voted. It was really interesting.

  4. I loved this review <3

    I have this book for so long but I still haven't read it. And you know what? You just convinced me to pick it up soon :)


    1. I'm glad that I've convinced you! Nick Hornby is one of the authors that I read automatically :)

  5. Wow wonderful review, this is a great book! :-)

    Aditi @Book Stop Corner


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