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Funny Girl: A Novel (2015)

by Nick Hornby

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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1,0685714,089 (3.52)45
Set in 1960's London, this is a lively account of the adventures of the intrepid young Sophie Straw as she navigates her transformation from provincial ingenue to television starlet amid a constellation of delightful characters.
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» See also 45 mentions

English (54)  French (2)  Italian (1)  All languages (57)
Showing 1-5 of 54 (next | show all)
Not really that great for me, although some parts were worth it. ( )
  myers3 | Dec 28, 2020 |
4.5, really. 1960s England -- groovy, baby! Hornby does a good job with a female main character, Barbara Parker, from Blackpool, who just wants to be a comic actress and idolizes Lucille Ball. Barbara, however, is gorgeous and keeeps getting pointed toward modeling and less honorable jobs. She abdicates her Miss Blackpool crown, leaves her father behind and heads to London to try to pursue her dream. She starts out as a shop girl, changes her name to Sophie Straw and thru a series of lucky mishaps (not unlike Lucy), she lands in a comedy writing office where the four men (2 writers-- Bill & Tony, a producer--Dennis and an actor -- Clive) are searching for a new TV concept, as well as a leading lady. It becomes a behind-the-scenes look at early television, women's lib, integration, pushing the envelope toward modernity, and high-brow vs. low-brow entertainment. The 5 main characters are so well portrayed with each other and in their separate narratives that the reader really begins to feel like part of their little group. Barbara/Sophie is an honest, refreshing heroine and the understated British humor makes this an easy entertaining read. ( )
  CarrieWuj | Oct 24, 2020 |
Not his best, this one fell a little flat. But a meh Hornby book is still a decent read. ( )
  baruthcook | Aug 26, 2020 |
Nick Hornby has always been what I would call a reliable author, by which I mean that I might not have loved everything he has written, but I have found some enjoyment in everything of his that I have ever read. But actually I did love this book, and think it is his best yet.

Set in the 1960s, it tells of Barbara Parker from Blackpool, who wins the title of Miss Blackpool, promptly decides she doesn’t want it, and heads off to London to realise her dream of becoming a comedienne like her heroine, Lucille Ball.

Before long, Barbara has become Sophie Straw, landed a lead role in a new, successful tv sitcom, and the world – or the UK at least – is at her feet. She becomes part of a close-knit team, with her co-star, writers and director and life is wonderful for a while. But as they grow older and wiser and real life starts to get in the way, they have to rethink just how long the show can continue.

As I mentioned above, I really enjoyed this book. I liked Sophie so much – she was quick-witted, intelligent and full of fun – and I also liked the team she worked with. The writers, Tony and Bill, both gay men at a time when homosexuality was illegal and both dealing with it in very different ways; the director Dennis, gentle, kind, cuckolded by his awful wife Edith; and co-star Clive, who should have been easy to dislike with his womanising, his unfaithfulness and his professional jealousy, but who nonetheless was charismatic and made me laugh.

Hornby weaves real people in and out of the narrative, and I liked this; the prime minister and Lucille Ball both make an appearance amongst others. The tone is light and humorous, but never superficial. I felt as though 1960s London was brought to life.

Definitely a thumbs up from me for this one – I highly recommend. ( )
  Ruth72 | Jun 29, 2020 |
Reading "Funny Girl" was like meeting an old friend and being reminded all over again why you liked them so much in the first place. With wit, optimism and gentle compassion, Nick Hornby summons up the zeitgeist of Britain in the 1960s and 70s through the medium of TV comedy on the BBC.

Like Hornby himself, I was a child in the 1960s, so I missed some of then nuances of BBC comedy, failing to see what was daring and subversive but still understanding what was truly funny.

Hornby helped me to remember what it was like at the start of the 60s when we had only two TV channels in England,the BBC and ITV. EVERYBODY watched the same programs and discussed them the next day because those were the only programs available. I was seven when BBC 2 went on air in 1964 but I couldn't watch it because we didn't have a telly that could cope with the fancy 625 line UHF transmission. We were still watching a small box with a big tube that used the much lower definition 405 line VHF transmission. Of course, back then, everything was in glorious black and white. Even so, programs like the BBC's Comedy Playhouse attracted huge audiences and launched series that EVERYONE watched (Steptoe and Son, launched by the Comedy Playhouse, attracted audiences of up to 28 million - about half of the population of the UK at the time).

"Funny Girl" tells the story of Barbara, a young woman from "up North" who declines to accept the title of Miss Blackpool and moves south to London to follow in the footsteps of her idol, Lucille Ball and become a comedian. She clicks with the writers of a new show for the BBC, they re-write the show as showcase for her and her career takes off.

As we follow Barbara's career from ingénue through comic star to redoubtable Dame of British Television, Nick Hornby helped me understand the transitions that Britain was going through and the role comedy played in helping audiences to understand themselves.

I was deeply impressed by Nick Hornby's ability to write a novel that often made me laugh but which is centred around very believable, very human characters, with strengths and flaws and personality quirks, who he describes with a compassion that comes very close to love and which generates a possibility of hope that I found very affecting.

This well written book was made even better in audio by a superb performance by Emma Fielding who got every voice and every accent absolutely right and amplified the value of every page.

( )
  MikeFinnFiction | May 16, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 54 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Hornby, Nickprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bogdan, IsabelÜbersetzersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
De Groot, Lisasecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fielding, EmmaNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Herzke, IngoÜbersetzersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Meister, TobiasNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Piraccini, SilviaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Van de Wardt, Roossecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For Amanda, with love and gratitude, as ever. And for Roger Gillett and Georgia Garrett.
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She didn't want to be a beauty queen, but as luck would have it, she was about to become one.
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Bill was extremely careful. He always made sure that he knew the Test score, and that he dressed badly, and sometimes he made careful reference to girls. But then, he was afraid, like a lot of men in his position. He was always one mistake away from prison.
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Set in 1960's London, this is a lively account of the adventures of the intrepid young Sophie Straw as she navigates her transformation from provincial ingenue to television starlet amid a constellation of delightful characters.

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