I was piqued by the title of this book as I was in a funk of reading books that entailed horror stories of 3rd world countries, someone’s ultimate demise or a “feel good” book that left me wanting for either of those two words. No, this was an uplifting read with humor, not so far as to say I was laughing out loud, but has a protagonist, Barbara from Blackpool, England, who longs to be as funny as Lucille Ball: thus gaining the title of Funny Girl.
The story begins by establishing Barbara as the beauty that mere mortal men only dream of. Much to the enjoyment of the rotund Mayor as along with the chagrin of her father, Barbara has easily won the Miss Blackpool Beauty pageant while moments later giving it away. She is on her way out of this small town to make her way as an actress in the big city of London.
Our poor optimist ends up as a sales associate in a department story sharing a flat with a deranged young woman who is mentally plotting ways to destroy Barbara and her beauty. (It is odd and funny the tidbits we glean from her flatmate.) Luck is on Barbara’s side one night when she is discovered by a happily married agent (who never ceases to remind us as such) and recognizes Barbara’s beauty as a one-way money ticket for two-bit West End shows. Although she has found an agent, Barbara does not want to merely be a two-bit actor; she aspires to make her dreams come true–she wants to be funny.
After reading the book, I took a new interest in the Golden Globes and Emmy nominations which were just released. I was awestruck by the multitude of big name actors/actresses and the supporting roles, but this time I found I was more interested in the names of those who never earned the credit they desired: the writers and directors. Funny Girl allows you to see the interaction between the stars and their fans, but it also allows the reader to see how the script comes to life. In the book, Funny Girl, Barbara finds herself on a BBC sitcom written by Bill Gardiner and Tony Holmes. The writers, actors, and directors have integrated themselves along with our protagonist into Funny Girl as well as illustrating the ending of the sixties into the merging seventies. Hornby has transplanted us into an era where funny was also controversial. He allows us to see beyond the actors, but to the creation as a whole—the lives on screen as well as those off.
Funny Girl: A Novel by Nick Hornby (Riverhead Books |9781594205415 | February 3, 2015)