Friday 8 March 2019

Book Review: Three Men in a Boat and Three Men on the Bummell (Classics)

Title: Three Men in a Boat / Three Men on the Bummell
Author: Jerome K. Jerome
Wordsworth Classics

Publication Date: 2012 (1889/1900)
Xmas Gift

Three Men in a Boat--There are four of them - George, Harris, the writer himself and that dog, Montmorency - all participants in a boating expedition on the Thames. The difficulties and vicissitudes heaped upon these innocents develop to epic proportions as they experience the hazards of the great English waterway. Their problems are in no way diminished by the outrageous behaviour of Montmorency, who lays waste several riverside communities in the course of their journey.

Three Men on the Bummel--'What is a bummel?' said George. 'How would you translate it?' 'A bummel,' I explained, 'I should describe as a journey, long or short, without an end; the only thing regulating it being the necessity of getting back within a given time to the point from which one started . . . ' After considerable indecision the bummel takes our heroes to Germany's Black Forest where they manage to disrupt the tranquil way of life usually enjoyed by the denizens, whose curious behaviour they closely observe and record in their account of this second epic journey. Even without that dog, chaos and mayhem reign supreme.

Three Men in a Boat is one of those books about which I've been thinking 'I really ought to read that' for a while, and I finally got to it. I have to admit, it's not what I expected. I'd imagined finding it dry, but it's actually very funny. The Gilbert and Sullivan joke had me laughing out loud, as did a few others. Some of the humour does focus on late Victorian matters, but if you aren't familiar with such things, there are notes explaining key figures and ideas mentioned in the back of the book. Overall, this was a quick and enjoyable read, and I am happy to have finally crossed it off my reading list. If you are looking for a light and humorous classic, this is your book.

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