Funny Girl - Nick Hornby

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Funny Girl - Nick Hornby

Post by Graham on Tue Jun 19, 2018 5:07 pm

This was an unequivocal delight. It is funny, touching and a beautiful evocation of behind the scenes 60’s sit-coms. Its heroine is Barbara Parker, rapidly renamed Sophie Straw by her seedy agent after winning Miss Blackpool 1964. No sooner has she won than she ditches the crown and heads for London. She has a lot more going for her than big boobs and nice legs and impresses the writers and producers of new sitcom ‘Barbara (and Jim)’ to the extent that they cast her as the lead. From here, her story and that of the eponymous sitcom couple run as mirror images. Along the way it intertwines with that of the script writers, Bill and Tony and the producer TD or ‘This Dennis’ to distinguish him from the real-life Dennis Main Wilson, OD or ‘Other Dennis’). TD has a crush on Barbara/Sophie, but he has been all but emasculated by his harpy of a wife. How this romance develops is the crux of the novel.

If you are of a certain age there is a lot of nostalgic sighing to be indulged in. Hornby has carefully researched his subject and is kind enough to provide a reading list. He weaves into the tale landmark television events, like the seismic upheaval of ‘Till death us do part’ and the first broadcast swear word. Similarly, his cast navigate the turbulence of the 60’s social revolution and the changing attitudes to homosexuality and women’s place in the home and the workplace. Hornby integrates all this seamlessly into the narrative and keeps you engrossed in Sophie’s life.

He provides a coda when cast and writers of Barbara (and Jim), now elderly, are reunited for a reboot. Being of a similar vintage I would rather he hadn’t, but it does ring true.

Graham
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