21 June 2005

Three Men in A Boat: To Say Nothing of The Dog! by Jerome K. Jerome

Classic Fiction. Paperback from Penguin Books. First published in 1889. Purchased at Methven's in Windsor.

A side benefit of living in the UK for several years has been the ability to bring first hand knowledge of the area to the British books I read. These "Three Men in A Boat" are going down the Thames river, which is right by where we lived. The book even mentions a stop in Datchet. The two hotels mentioned in Datchet, the Stag and the Manor hotel are both still there, though the Stag is just a pub now. It is amazing to me that places mentioned in a book 116 years ago are still there. I've noticed that Datchet shows up in books with more frequency than I would have expected. In Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell Jonathan Strange crosses the Thames at Datchet when he is going to Windsor Castle. And that is just two books I've read recently. Anyway, I've digressed, but mainly wanted to say that I've enjoyed having Datchet (and other UK places I'm familiar with) show up in the books I read. I haven't really had that experience much before.

My sister-in-law Cindy recommended this book to me, and I read it part of the way through while we were in England, only to loose in in a pile of books somewhere and end up not finishing it. My friend Mark, on seeing a comment I made about Three Men in A Boat in my now defunct Datchet blog, recommended a book by Connie Willis, To Say Nothing of the Dog. It sounded good to me and I made a note to keep my eyes open for a copy. On our recent trip to Texas we picked up my brother's 1000 book library to bring home. (He died last September.) As I was packing the books up, there was the Connie Willis book! I kept it out and plan to read it next. I figured however, that I should actually complete the reading of Three Men in A Boat before I read To Say Nothing of the Dog.

As to Three Men in A Boat, it certainly confirms that human nature has changed little in the past 100 years. The book really doesn't have much of a plot, it just these fellows and a dog boating down the Thames. As they encounter different things the narrator of the story remembers incidences from the past and does a bit of moralizing about things as well. He makes some very astute observations, ranging from the affects of having too many things to the foolishness of making plans using the weather report as a guide. I was especially tickled by his comments about tow lines; how they tangle themselves up when no one is looking. I know this to be very true of almost any long string like item. (iPod headphones and extension cords come to mind.)

Publisher's summary:
"Change of scene, and absence of the necessity for thought, will restore the mental equilibrium"

It would be unfair to say that any of the three men were hypochondriacs: it was simply that they suffered from a constant malaise, consisting of every symptom but housemaid's knee. The only cure for it was a revitalizing river trip in an open boat.

Bearing frying pans, elusive toothbrushes, pies, lemonade and whisky, for medicinal purposes only, the three men and Montmorency the dog (whose ambition in life is to get in the way) embark on their hilarious adventures on the Thames. After considerable enjoyment and irritation -- getting lost in the maze, arguing with some quarrelsome swans, falling in the river -- the three men decide that being out of a boat seems a more inviting alternative.

Despite being over a century old, its sparkling insights into human -- and canine -- nature ensure that Three Men in a Boat is as fresh and invigorating today as when it was first published.

To buy from amazon.co.uk, click here: Three Men in a Boat: To Say Nothing of the Dog
from amazon.com, click here: Three Men in a Boat: To Say Nothing of the Dog

No comments: