Kressel Housman's Reviews > Three Men in a Boat and Three Men on the Bummel

Three Men in a Boat and Three Men on the Bummel by Jerome K. Jerome
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's review
Feb 09, 11

really liked it
bookshelves: classics, fiction, humor, victorian
Recommended for: everyone
Read from January 31 to February 08, 2011

In many ways, these two books are the literary equivalent of the sitcom "Seinfeld" - comedies about "nothing." But instead of three guys and an ex-girlfriend going through the antics of daily life in Manhattan, the first is about three Englishmen and a dog going through ridiculous antics while rowboating up the Thames, and the second (written and taking place some ten years later) is about the same three men on a bicycle trip in the Black Forest of Germany. Written in late Victorian England, the jokes are a lot cleaner than Seinfeld's, and the overall tone is classically British tongue-in-cheek, but the scenes depict the challenges of ordinary life (ie putting up a tent, opening a can of pineapple) hilariously. I know "laughing out loud" is a computer-age cliche, but I promise you, my fellow commuters could hear me as I was reading these books.

The author does diverge from humor in spots, particularly in the second book, in which he makes observations about the German people that underline all the features that gave rise to the Nazi era, though notably, the author acknowledges getting swept up in pugilistic mob thinking himself. That, of course, is anything but funny, but you can't help but be impressed at the author's perceptiveness. The book was written 50 years before the rise of Hitler, though Kaiser Wilhelm was already in power.

All in all, though, the book is good, clean fun. Unlike many other books on my list, you don't have to be Jewish, or a Jane Austen fan, or a parent, or an aspiring writer to enjoy it. It really has universal appeal.
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