I have a love/meh relationship with one Nick Hornby. He wrote High Fidelity for which I will forever love him more than I thought possible. He also wrote About a Boy which was okay, but resulted in an excellent film so again I appreciate. Fever Pitch (ignoring both films, including the Colin Firth one) also delightfully captures what being a true sports fan is all about. His more recent novels? So mediocre it’s painful. A Long Way Down was a slog through, and I honestly can’t remember the plot to Juliet, Naked (and am too lazy to get up and go to my bookshelf and see). It felt as though he’d run out of things to say, and was just writing a big jumble of whatever. Well, it appears with his new novel he got a bit of his old mojo back.
So even though we have this contentious (in my mind) relationship when I see Hornby is going to have a new novel out I’m always one of the first on the library hold list. With new books in my library you get them for a shorter amount of time, therefore I actually induced a fine because I had to finish the book. It was worth it.
It’s the story of Barbara from Blackpool, beauty queen and wanna be comedienne. It’s 1964 and Barbara turns down the title of Miss Blackpool in order to go to London and pursue her comedy dreams. After a few little misadventures Barbara changes her name to Sophie and immediately gets cast as a lead in a new comedy series for the BBC. And that’s when the real story begins. This is the story of Barbara, but it’s also the story of the comedy show. It’s about the writers, the producer/director, and the two leads. It’s a less wacky I Love Lucy kind of show. This is when the story really starts rolling. Sometimes you can tell he gets a little over ambitious in trying to hit upon every theme one could imagine for the sixties, but in general it works pretty well. Barbara has the story of getting out of her hum drum little town into the big wide world. Clive, her costar, gets the free love kind of story. The producer/director, Dennis, is the Cambridge stiff watching the changing of the guard, and trying to find his place in this new world. Lastly are the writers, Bill and Tony, one gay and one unsure and therein was what I found the most interesting part of the story.
Bill and Tony meet in jail a few years before the story started for attempting to “engage in illicit activities”(not with each other though). There they form a real friendship and then partnership in comedy writing. Bill knows that he’s gay and watching how society changes some during that time is interesting, but what really was interesting was Tony. Unsure Tony who ends up being happily married, but never really knows about all of it. It was interesting to see someone written so vague in their sexuality, and made for a much more rounded character.
Overall I enjoyed it. A lot. If you’re looking for a quick, well written novel that will make you laugh (and think a little) I definitely recommend. We’re back on the love side of things Mr. Hornby…