British humor is often hard to grasp for Indians, with their references and rambling. But Jerome K. Jeromehits the nail on the head with ‘Three Men In A Boat‘ and brings out British absurdities and traditions in a comic way. This book though meant to be a travelogue of sorts ended up, inexplicable as one of the most loved funny stories of all time. And even after 100+ years since publishing, the jokes remain fresh and witty!
It outlines the story of three men – Jerome and his two friends, Harris and George and their dog, a fox terrier called Montmorency on their holiday on the River Thames in Oxford, England as the three men suffer from some weird ailment. So they set themselves off on a trip to cure themselves – a boating trip. Apparently, that was quite common in those times, which is around 1889 when the book was published.
The travelogue portion is quite apparent as along the trip, Jerome mentions all the villages and landmarks they pass, such as Hampton Court Palace, Hampton Church, Monkey Island, Magna Carta Island, Marlow etc and the few titbits about the culture in those places. But this, though intended to be the main part of the book was overshadowed by the comic instances that cropped up and the book gave up and now is just a humorous tale. Jerome often digresses and starts off random anecdotes and ponders upon life.
From friends to friends-of-friends to historic characters, Jerome’s detours truly know no bounds. He gives up brilliant character sketches of not only Harris and George, but of Montmorency also. From how his Aunt Podger used to take a week long refuge at her mother’s place when Uncle Podger donned the role of a handyman trying to fix “little” things in the house to how the making of Irish Stew from all the leftovers compelled Montmorency to add his bit by bringing a dead-water rat, each episode will leave you giggling in delight.
And the best is that it describes the common frustrations of life that you and I go through. The downside of the book is that the return journey back up the Thames is wrapped up in just one chapter which leaves you slightly hurt and bewildered at the sudden ending. But the wry and sarcastic humour and wit with the misadventures, exaggerations, mad caps, twists and sheer silliness in this P. G Wodehouse-y book leaves you pleasantly happy at the end. Of course, one can’t help but read this book in a proper British accent. Be it in their heads, or out loud. And that would be perfectly fine.