Funny Girl by Nick Hornby

Penguin provided me with a complimentary copy of the novel, however the opinions are my own.

Set primarily in 1960s London, Nick Hornby’s latest novel, Funny Girl, recounts the adventures of a small-town beauty queen turned TV-comedy superstar and the ensemble of characters who enable her stardom. At the height of her success, Sophie, her co-star and their writing/directing team function like a well-oiled machine firing on all cylinders as they feed off of one another’s strengths. As time wears on, however, political and creative differences (as well as a few delightfully messy affairs of the heart) threaten to drive them apart. What is lost, and what remains, make for a satisfying end to a compulsively readable confection of a novel about the joys, surprises, disappointments and tensions of close relationships.

funny girl

Like several of Hornby’s other works, Funny Girl would translate well as a film, however I’d like to see Sophie’s character become multi-dimensional in the adaptation. In the novel she is steadfastly one-note: ever-optimistic, driven and impossibly brilliant given her young age. (That is, brilliant in terms of her acting; she’s still naive in her personal life.) Although she’s the central character, we don’t see her struggle to the same extent as the writers Tony and Bill and the director Dennis. Even her self-absorbed co-star, Clive, is conflicted by the tension between his on-screen and public personas.

Despite this minor quibble, the story moves quickly and convincingly. The reader is rewarded with a bonus in the form of a substantial epilogue in part three. This last section of the book is my favourite and most satisfying. Set 50 years later, it’s heart-warming to see the characters in their old age and the magic that can happen when their deflated spirits are revived. Despite its seemingly frothy premise, there is heart and depth in Funny Girl, and for Hornby, another success.

Have you read any books by Nick Hornby? Did you enjoy them? Tell me more!

8 thoughts on “Funny Girl by Nick Hornby

  1. I love Nick Hornby! I got a copy of High Fidelity in manuscript form when I was working at an audio publisher and I’ve read a few more since. My favourite is probably How To Be Good, but I also loved how he wrote about music in The Polysyllabic Spree. I usually find that his characters are quite well-drawn and nuanced so it’s weird that you noticed that about this character. I haven’t read anything very recent, though. So buried in books.

    1. I love Nick Hornby too, but there really isn’t much depth to Sophie. Still, this can be forgiven. Great novel! Am curious to see if you’re going to read The Rosie Effect and what you’ll think of it.

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