FUNNY GIRL: Comedy in the Age of Change

Funny Girl: A Novel



Cover of Funny Girl

By Nick Hornby
Narrated By Emma Fielding
Length: 10 hrs and 19 min
Published February 3, 2015
Also available in Print and Ebook Formats from Penguin/Riverhead
464 Pages

Book provided by publisher for review. No remuneration was exchanged and all opinions presented herein are my own except as noted.


Set in 1960’s London, Funny Girl is a lively account of the adventures of the intrepid young Sophie Straw as she navigates her transformation from provincial ingénue to television starlet amid a constellation of delightful characters. Insightful and humorous, Nick Hornby’s latest does what he does best: endears us to a cast of characters who are funny if flawed, and forces us to examine ourselves in the process.



My Take Oblong

If you lived through the 1960s this book will ring true,, and I imagine if you were in Britain then it will smack you in the face like a big wet kiss from your old aunt.

In the 1960s it seems that things changed overnight and every day.  One day we had on cotton dresses past our 5 year old knees and the next we were in double knit polyester minis with peace symbols all over them.  One day shops were all about service and then next they were all about new products swelling the shelves: Captain Crunch, Space food Sticks.   Everyone had a television, and a clock radio and we thought those were the height of technology! I think we were all kind of naive.

And women were finding a place in comedy, Lucille Ball (idolized by Sophie), Phyllis Diller and Joan Rivers, were carving out spots for women in the comedy programming and stand-up circuits.  I was reminded, very fondly, of comic actresses I grew up watching in sit coms, especially Mary Tyler Moore. And it also brought up memories of ground breaking programs like “All in the Family.”

England was still recovering from WWII, was having clashes between the political parties off the time, but mass media, like television was thriving.  The clash between the past (characterized by pictures of horses, and dark wood in the book, and the modern world is stark and not without folks wanting to get some comfort from the old-fashioned.  Not everyone knew what to do with the strange new world.

When the young woman in the story leaves home she knows it is something she has to do. She knows she has to move into the new age and away from what everyone expects from her in her provincial town.  In many ways she is unsure and unprepared for the changes the modern world will have for her, and for what it will mean to become a celebrity.  She is a huge representation of, what was called back then, the generation gap. Except at some point she realizes she is not that different in some traditional ways.

This story is about a lot of things, the clash between the people born before WWII and those born after, a youthful journey into the future, self-discovery, political opinion, intellectual, high brow culture versus the everyday bloke.  I’m not sure what the main message was, but I enjoyed listening and remembered the 1960s and what seemed like a massive change in the world, almost overnight. Sophie comes from the world of the working class bloke, working at the cosmetics counter when she gets into her career she ends up mixing with some people with more education or who, at least, had more exposure to the world.   But she’s also brave, not fearless but brave.

FUNNY GIRL is thought provoking, funny, sweet and sometimes biting.  The audio production was excellent with Emma Fielding getting Sophie down, to my ear, perfectly. I really enjoyed the book and highly recommend it; especially to anyone who grew up in, or came of age in, the 1960s.

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