Summary and book reviews of Funny Girl by Nick Hornby

Funny Girl

by Nick Hornby

Funny Girl by Nick Hornby X
Funny Girl by Nick Hornby
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  • First Published:
    Feb 2015, 464 pages
    Paperback:
    Feb 2016, 480 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Rebecca Foster

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About this Book

Book Summary

Insightful and humorous, Nick Hornby's latest does what he does best: endears us to a cast of characters who are funny if flawed, and forces us to examine ourselves in the process.

Set in 1960s London, Funny Girlis a lively account of the adventures of the intrepid young Sophie Straw as she navigates her transformation from provincial ingénue to television starlet amid a constellation of delightful characters. Insightful and humorous, Nick Hornby's latest does what he does best: endears us to a cast of characters who are funny if flawed, and forces us to examine ourselves in the process.

She didn't want to be a beauty queen, but as luck would have it, she was about to become one.

There were a few aimless minutes between the parade and the announcement, so friends and family gathered round the girls to offer congratulations and crossed fingers. The little groups that formed reminded Barbara of licorice Catherine wheels: a girl in a sugary bright pink or blue bathing suit at the center, a swirl of dark brown or black raincoats around the outside. It was a cold, wet July day at the South Shore Baths, and the contestants had mottled, bumpy arms and legs. They looked like turkeys hanging in a butcher's window. Only in Blackpool, Barbara thought, could you win a beauty competition looking like this.

Barbara hadn't invited any friends, and her father was refusing to come over and join her, so she was stuck on her own. He just sat there in a deck chair, pretending to read the Daily Express. The two of them would have made a tatty, half-eaten Catherine ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. Early in Funny Girl, before recording Barbara (and Jim) for Comedy Playhouse, Sophie Straw says of the show, "I don't want it to go out into the world . . . I want to stay like we were" (see page 107). What is Sophie trying to preserve? What is she afraid of losing?
  2. There are some in the book who are irritated by Barbara (and Jim)'s popularity (Edith Maxwell-Bishop and Vernon Whitfield, for example) and who seem to believe that entertainment should be more traditional and less bawdy. Whitfield also says of the show's audience, "I love ordinary people individually. It's ordinary people en masse that trouble me" (page 207). Does the narrator take a stand on this sentiment? How is it conveyed?
  3. On page 150, a reviewer ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

With Funny Girl, Hornby tries out a historical setting for the first time; his six previous novels comment on their contemporary (1990s–2010s) setting. With its focus away from contemporary times, this might not be vintage Hornby, but is a memorable evocation, nevertheless, of the Swinging Sixties in Britain.   (Reviewed by Rebecca Foster).

Full Review (685 words).

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Media Reviews

The New York Times

As befits a novel about a popular sitcom, this novel packs in lots of laughs, but it's also got more heft than Mr. Hornby's readers may expect.

USA Today

Hornby's fluency in script-like breeziness and crisp banter makes Funny Girl a pleasurable read. So does page after page of perfectly timed and delivered humor, the subtle and understated kind, that starts with the first line.

People

[A] light, fond, funny tale by the author of About a Boy…[a] fizzy delight about the likable oddballs who populate showbiz.

Library Journal

For a novel about comedy, the humor is off camera, implied but not evident. Hornby's . . . usual spark is missing. A readable but melancholy and definitely not funny book.

The Daily Telegraph (UK)

In the end, Funny Girl not only beautifully captures the thrill of youthful success and of discovering your own talent, but also ponders the rather longer-lasting business of what happens when that thrill fades.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. [A] delightful collection of characters that care as much as they harm, each struggling to determine who they want to be.

Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review. [Hornby's] most ambitious novel to date... he makes the reader care for his characters as much as he does.

The Spectator (UK)

Funny Girl may be read as Hornby's latest defence of popular entertainment against high-culture elitism. Funny Girl makes his case for him eloquently and entertainingly ... both hugely enjoyable and deceptively artful.

Reader Reviews

TGould

A great listen on audio
This well-written novel provides a glimpse into Great Britain during the Beatles era and more specifically during a golden age of British TV comedy. The main character is engaging and likable without being perfect or too sweet. All the characters ...   Read More

Cloggie Downunder

another brilliant dose of Hornby at his best
“What was he doing with her? How on earth could he love her? But he did. Or, at least, she made him feel sick, sad and distracted. Perhaps there was another way of describing that unique and useless combination of feelings, but ‘love’ would have to ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Classic BBC Comedies

Funny Girl is set in the Swinging Sixties in Britain in the world of television shows and their production.

The Cast of Monty Python The British Broadcasting Corporation, or BBC, got its start in 1922 with professional radio shows. Regular television service began in 1936 and has continued ever since. The 1940s saw the first instance of live television, a boon during war reporting. One of the most important events of the 1950s in Britain was Queen Elizabeth II's coronation, and many people bought televisions specifically so they could watch coverage of it.

With the 1960s and 1970s came color television and some of the most enduringly popular British comedies, including some that made it across the pond to America:

  • The Benny Hill Show (1962)
  • Cult sci...

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