While it didn’t set my world on fire or anything, I think of the last few Nick Hornby books that I’ve read (Songbook, A Long Way Down, Fever Pitch), this was my favorite. It was sweet, light and enjoyable, mostly due to the very likable characters.
“We wrote about whatever we wanted, and we ended up with eighteen million people watching us. That’s the thing about television comedy, isn’t it? It makes us all a part of something. That’s what I love about it.”
Barbara wants to be an actress. She’s gorgeous, but she wants to do comedy, a fact that seems to startle everyone in 1960s London. However, after a delightful audition with her favorite radio writers, she lands a television show in which she not only gets to be funny, but she’s the lead as well. We watch her rise and fall (first step: changing her name to Sophie), as well as the changes in the lives of everyone around her — her rather slutty male co-star, the two writers (both gay, although one is married to a woman and eventually fathers a child), the director (secretly in love with Sophie), and so on.
The background of entertainment in London in the 1960s really made the book for me. The writers of Sophie’s show want to do something different — in a time when either of them could easily go to jail for their sexual orientation. Sophie, too, wants something different (basically, to become Lucille Ball) and we see how her goals and desires change over time. The characters are all great — I loved the writers, Bill and Tony — and it’s a cute story overall.