PHILIP DOSSICK

Peaches and Plumbs Booksellers

Three Men in a Boat

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cover.jpg

Three Men in a Boat

4.29

Three Men in a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog)*, Jerome K Jerome's accidental classic about messing about on the Thames remains a comic gem.

A trio of hypochondriacs (Harris, George and Jerome) decides that a leisurely boat trip is just what their overworked bodies and brains need for a rest.

Accompanied by the ever-mischievous dog Montmorency, they skull up the Thames from Kingston in Surrey as far as Oxford.

The book is far more than a travelogue. It uses incidents from the journey (including the author’s estimation of newspaper “weather reports”) as jumping off points for some virtuosic set pieces, as hilarious and relevant today as they were in the late Victorian period.

The three men are based on Jerome himself (the narrator J.) and two real-life friends, George Wingrave (who went on to become a senior manager in Barclays Bank) and Carl Hentschel (the founder of a London printing business, called Harris in the book), with whom he often took boating trips.

 

JEROME K. JEROME (1859–1927) was an English humorist, best known for the comic travelogue Three Men in a Boat (1889). Other works include the essay collections Idle Thoughts of an Idle Fellow, and Second Thoughts of an Idle Fellow; Three Men on the Bummel, sequel to Three Men in a Boat; and Diary of a Pilgrimage.

 

* Number 25 on The Guardian’s list of 100 Best Novels.

 

What's it all about? Jerome K Jerome would probably say his masterpiece was "about one hundred and fifty pages", but I would argue that Three Men in a Boat is about the camaraderie of youth, the absurdity of existence, camping holidays, playing truant, comic songs, and the sweet memories of lost time. You could also read it as an unconscious elegy for imperial Britain. Did I omit to say that it also features a dog named Montmorency? In short, like all the finest comic writing, it's about everything and nothing.

 —Robert McCrum

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