Saturday, June 21, 2014

Thoughts on the Classics: Three Men in a Boat

 Three Men, George, Harris, Jerome of the Merry & Lazy Variety of well-to-do Young men of the Victorian Era feel so depressed with their routine & assumed illness (Munchausen Syndrome) that they decide to go on an Idyllic Cruise along London Thames River for a fortnight, in an equally depressing soggy weather. They pack their food, clothes & the dog, Montmorency, in a small boat. They travel the Country along the Thames. Right from the word ’go’, nothing goes right for them. This book narrates what all they are forced to encounter & endure in their jolly boat ride. They really have hell of a time!

Three Men in a Boat
Jerome K. Jerome (1889). [Genre: Comic novel]
Source: local library
I find myself surprisingly lacking in things to say about Three Men in a Boat. It was definitely funny - there were even several times other commuters on my train were giving me funny looks as I snickered away. Jerome K. Jerome has a way of describing utterly absurd situations in a completely deadpan manner. The process of getting the butter packed for the boat trip, and the anecdote about carrying cheese on the train were my favourites.

But despite the humour, Three Men in a Boat just didn't strike a chord with me the way I was expecting it to. I think it was the lack of plot. I've been having a busy week, with lots on my mind, and I kept finding myself having to go back several pages because I'd lost track of where I was - in the middle of 'the story' (which probably only takes up a quarter of the novel) or one of the flashbacks/anecdotes that while amusing dominated the text to the detriment of plot. I was also surprised by how quickly the mood/tone of story could change - for example a very humorous tale moving straight into the discovery of a dead body in the river.

Overall, I'd be tempted to try Jerome K. Jerome again sometime, but I'm a little sad that I didn't find Three Men in a Boat as memorable as I thought I would.

Three Men in a Boat crosses another book off my Classics Club list, and I'm counting it towards the 19th Century classic category of the Back to the Classics Challenge.


  1. Sometimes you just have to be in the right mood for a book. This one is on my list too but I'm not tackling it yet. By the way, have you read "To Say Nothing of the Dog" by Connie Willis? It's one of my favorite books and as you can tell from the title pays homage to TMIAB.

    1. I haven't, though I've read others by Connie Willis that are connected to it - I'll have to add it to my to-read pile!

  2. That's too bad! It's one of my favourites! But Lory is right about the mood ….. if you are rushed, sometimes it's hard to connect with a book. I'm having the same problem lately with Le Morte d'Arthur. So many people love it but I've been trying to read it in between other things and it just isn't doing it for me. I'm going to try picking it up again in the summer when I have more reading time.

    1. It's certainly true that I've come back to novels that I didn't appreciate when I first picked them up, but loved when I tried them at a different time