All Barbara wants to do is grow up and be the next Lucille Ball. Fascinated by the world of comedy, she heads to London to pursue fame, fortune and a career in comedy. At first, she struggles to find acting work and toils away at her day job. Then one day, she goes to an audition, ends up charming the producers and helps to co-create a hit British sit-com about a couple of complete opposites who attract and get married.
Changing her name to Sophie Straw (ironically, her character on the show is named Barbara), she becomes the next big thing in comedy in the UK.
If you think I’m giving away too much, I can tell you that most of what I’ve described above happens in the first third of Nick Hornby’s latest novel Funny Girl. In the past, Hornby has created worlds with flawed male protagonists who struggle with women and the people who love them. With Funny Girl he goes outside his usual comfort zone and ends up with a fascinating character portrait.
Don’t get too worried — there are still lots of flawed people here who make all kinds of mistakes. But instead of having a male who needs to grow up a bit, Hornby offers a look inside the world of British comedy during a certain era. Funny Girl is easy to get swept up in and there were times I found myself wishing that the fictional show Hornby details actually existed for us to see (though in all likelihood, the BBC would have destroyed the master tapes of it…no, I’m not bitter that we’re still missing close to a 100 episodes of Doctor Who from this era…why do you ask?).
A fast, funny novel from Hornby and one that shows a new side and range to this author.