Three Men in a Boat – Jerome K Jerome

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When Beth from Beth Fish Reads recommeded To Say Nothing of the Dog as one of her top reads in 2008. I decided to add it to my wish list. To Say Nothing of the Dog is a parody of Three Men in a Boat, so I decided I really should read the classic before attempting the time travel version!

Three Men in a Boat is a light read, about a journey along the River Thames during Victorian times. It is full of humor, but most of the time I found myself smiling at them, rather than with them, as the puns are just too obvious:

Then we discussed the food question. George said:

‘Begin with breakfast.’ (George is so practical.) ‘Now for breakfast we shall want a frying pan’ – Harris said it was indigestible; but we merely urged him not to be an ass, and George went on – ‘a teapot and a kettle, and a methylated spirit stove.’

I live just two miles from the River Thames, and know it very well. I loved learning about what it was like over a hundred years ago. It was really nice to see places I visit regularly described in the book:

You pass Oatlands Park on the right bank here. It is a famous old place. Henry VIII stole it from someone or other, I forget whom now, and lived in it. There is a grotto in the park which you can see for a fee, and is supposed to be very wonderful.

I have taken my boys to play in Oatlands Park many times, and have never seen a grotto, so I looked it up on the Internet. I was amazed to find out how beautiful it was. There’s a photo here. Unfortunately it was dynamited in 1948, as people were trespassing on it, and the owners thought this was unsafe. I can’t believe such a special place has been destroyed.

Many other places I recognised were described, and I recommend this book to anyone who knows the Thames well. I can’t see much attraction to other people, as it is just a bit silly. I’m really looking forward to reading To Say Nothing of The Dog, and hope it is a much more rewarding read.

Beth’s review is of Three Men in a Boat is here.


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7 Comments

  1. Sandy says:

    A book always means more when you are intimately familiar with the places that are mentioned. You have intrigued me with this one!

  2. Beth F says:

    I lived in London for a couple of months in 1985 and did the obligatory boat ride to Greenwich (one of my favorite places!). But other than that I am not familiar with the Thames. Regardless, I was not as enamored with the book as others have been. But reading the Jerome book adds to the pleasure of To Say Nothing of the Dog. Can’t wait to hear what you have to say about that one.

  3. DebD says:

    I am looking forward to reading this book sometime soon after having read and enjoyed To Say Nothing of the Dog Thanks for the review.

  4. Violet says:

    I was about to buy this book last time i was in the bookstore. But something held me back.
    I know absolutely anything about Thames, so i think I will give this a miss.

  5. Laura says:

    I know nothing of the Thames except what I’ve read in literature and poetry and I live in Alabama, but my husband and I have been listening to an audio book edition of Three Men in a Boat and we’ve enjoyed it immensely. Doubtless our pleasure would be increased if we were familiar with the places mentioned, however, for us the “rabbit trail” anecdotes are very amusing and probably are the reason we like it so much.

    And we’ve found that the Victorian English humor strikes a chord with us 21st century Americans.

  6. Jackie says:

    Laura – I’m so pleased that you enjoyed it! The humor is very slap stick, so not really to my taste, but I can see why the audio book would work well – it is great to catch a glimpse of Victorian life. Perhaps you’ll visit the Thames one day, and it will be even more special.

  7. Terri B. says:

    How exciting to know some of the places mentioned in the book. I read both books the other way ’round; time travel first and then the original. I enjoyed the original but I must say that I had a lot more fun with “To Say Nothing of the Dog.” Connie Willis is one of my favorite authors. I look forward to your review of the Willis book!

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