Three Men in a Boat (to
say nothing of the dog) has no deep messages but perfectly
captures human nature. It is set in late 19th-century England when
recreation on the Thames River was very popular. Three friends want to
get away from the stress of their London jobs by taking a boating
holiday from Kingston to Oxford, bringing along the dog of one of them.
J., who is a journalist, writes an amusing account of their
misadventures on the river, frequently digressing to recall funny
incidents from other occasions.
J. was based on the writer himself, Jerome K. Jerome, and his two companions on his friends George Wingrave and Carl Hentschel (Harris in the book). The dog, Montmorency, is fictional. The book was initially intended to be a travel guide, but the comic parts were so engaging that the editor cut many of the serious passages. It was a good decision; Three Men in a Boat was such a great hit with readers that the publisher commented, “I cannot imagine what becomes of all the copies of that book I issue. I often think the public must eat them." It has never been out of print, and The Guardian has ranked it among the 25 greatest novels of all time, and Esquire the second funniest. A decade later Jerome wrote a sequel, Three Men on the Brummel, about the trio’s bicycling trip in Germany.
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