It has been five years since Nick Hornby’s last novel, Juliet, Naked. He has been successfully writing scripts for films such as An Education. Perhaps it has been this that inspired Funny Girl, a novel about writing for television.
Barbara Parker is Miss Blackpool of 1964. It is a title she does not want. She turns her back on Blackpool setting her sights on the bright lights of London. Barbara wants to make people laugh just like Lucille Ball.
She picks up a job working behind the cosmetics counter in a department store but her life soon changes for the better. After a chance meeting with an agent she changes her name to Sophie Straw and becomes the lead in a new BBC comedy show called Barbara (and Jim).The nation is soon glued to their TVs as they watch in earnest the developing relationship between Barbara and Jim.
Hornby takes us inside the television programme, the writers, the producer and the stars. From Clive, Barbara’s husband Jim, the good looking lead who constantly feels inferior because his name is in brackets, to the mild mannered, Oxbridge educated, producer Dennis whose devotion to the show and especially to Sophie is total.
Funny Girl is full of interesting diversions such as photographs from the 60s, book covers and script extracts. It is the writers of the script, duo Tony and Bill, that provide much of the terrific comedy.
Funny Girl is clever, funny and impossible to put down.
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