I am a big fan of Nick Hornby. He’s a great writer, and a screenwriter. I think I’ve read all of his books, my favorite one being About a Boy. I loved the book, the movie, and even the TV show. I was excited to finally get my hands on his latest book Funny Girl, and I’ve just finished reading it. It doesn’t disappoint!
The title alone reminds me of the old musical starring Barbara Streisand. The main character of Funny Girl is actually a young girl named Barbara. In the beginning of the book Barbara has just won the title of Miss Blackpool. Blackpool is a small town on the western coast of England, just north of Liverpool, and she thinks she should feel honored. She doesn’t, though. The title is coveted by many other young women, yet she knows there something else out there for her. She’s reluctant to accept the title, wondering about all of the responsibilities that it entails, including spending the entire year in Blackpool.
“Hospitals? Charity galas? An entire year? What had she been thinking? Auntie Marie had told her about the shop openings and the Christmas lights, but she hadn’t thought about how she’d be letting people down if she just disappeared, and she hadn’t thought about how she’d still be Miss Blackpool in three hunderd and sixty-four days’ time. She knew then that she didn’t want to be Miss Blackpool in an hour’s time.”
On the day she wins the crown, and gives the crown back, she makes a decision to leave Blackpool for London. It’s there that she pursues a career as an actress. The story takes place in the 1960s, and Barbara idolizes Lucille Ball. There in London, with the help of her agent, she recreates herself. Choosing a new name for herself, Sofie Straw. Sofie goes on to be one part of a comedy team, that seems like a sketch comedy group. She then lands on a series that’s somewhat self-titled, Barbara and Jim. The show goes on to become one of the most popular shows on the air – similar to Friends during its heyday.
I usually love Nick Hornby, but it took me a long time to get into this one. For any other book, or probably any other writer, I would’ve put the book down and moved on. He usually delivers, so I kept reading. About a hundred pages in, he had me. I loved the story of Barbara’s career – the popularity of the show, and the expectations of her as a woman during the 1960s. She’s a modern woman, and challenges those expectations that are placed on her. I loved the ending, which made these characters somewhat timeless. Sofie, along with her castmates and friends, were able to be exactly who they wanted to be. That was a powerful message.emesag