Book Review: Funny Girl

‘Love meant being brave, otherwise you had already lost your own argument…’

What on earth can a writer do when their first three novels are as successful as Fever Pitch, High Fidelity and About a Boy? In the case of Nick Hornby, he has continued to release well-received works of both fiction and non-fiction whilst also branching out into TV and film work. That being said, I’ve read pretty much everything Hornby has written since that white-hot trio at the start of his career and I have to say that nothing he has done since has come close to matching those three books. I love all three of them dearly. Funny Girl, published in 2014, was Hornby’s seventh novel and very well could be the best of the rest…

Barbara Parker is sick of Blackpool. Even winning the 1964 edition of Miss Blackpool is not enough to silence her relentless ambition. Inspired by her idol Lucille Ball, Barbara Parker becomes Sophie Straw and promptly finds herself heading up a sitcom very shortly after moving to London. This brings her into the orbit of a flamboyant actor, a pair of working-class writers and a kind-hearted but timid television producer.

Hornby skillfully weaves real-life figures from popular culture into this classic rags-to-riches tale. The characters are likeable, authentic and familiar and at 342 pages the whole thing is a light and breezy read. While the book is frequently hilarious (as is customary for anything written by Hornby) it is also surprisingly emotionally resonant, particularly during the book’s bittersweet conclusion. If anything, my only criticism would be that I would be happy to spend more time with these characters in this world. Indeed, the third act feels a little rushed.

Funny Girl is back in the pop culture zeitgeist at the moment as it has recently been adapted into a series starring Gemma Arterton. Hopefully, Arterton and the rest will do it justice. A thoroughly enjoyable book.