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Barnes & Noble Review: Funny Girl



Comic relief always offers relief to the stresses of everyday life. Author Nick Hornby offers a fantastic masterpiece peppered with the ups and downs of the British entertainment industry during the mid 20th century.


FunnyGirlSlider1Funny Girl, Nick Hornby’s seventh novel, begins in 1964 in Blackpool, the seaside town in its chilly twilight as the English working-class holiday destination of choice. It is July, cold and wet — the North’s version of summer — and Barbara Parker has just been named Miss Blackpool. It is an honor she hopes to parlay into an acting career — that is, until she learns that she is expected to stick around for the next year, presiding over any number of openings and other civic horrors. Abruptly, she hands the crown to the runner-up and heads off to London.

Barbara’s idol is Lucille Ball, and her goal is to be a comic actress. She is picked up by an agent and, on his advice, changes her name to Sophie Straw (meant to evoke a roll in the hay). Quite soon, thanks to Hornby’s habitual kindliness toward his characters, she lands a starring role in a new television situation comedy.

Sophie, as we must now call her, has arrived in London just as BBC television is loosening its stays, in part because of competition from ITV, the commercial broadcasting outfit, and in part because British society as a whole is breaking loose from the past. Sophie’s busty blonde beauty and firmness of purpose have brought her into an alliance with a team of script writers, Bill and Tony, and their producer, Dennis. The three are trying to break the mold for television comedy — a key mission of the British ’60s — but without Sophie’s outspoken views and all-conquering drive this is clearly not going to happen.”


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