My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Funny Girl is a light, fun read about the production of a BBC comedy in the sixties. The focus is on the lives of the writers, producer, and actors of this fictional show: Barbara (and Jim). Very few scenes from the show are described, reminding me of the structure of the popular TV show 30 Rock.
The main character in the novel is an actress named Barbara whose agent convinces her to change her name to Sophie and is then cast to play a character named Barbara. This name shift seems to tie in with the way the TV actors begin to confuse the lives of their characters with their own, off camera lives. When I first saw the name of this novel and discovered it is about an actress named Barbara, I thought it would be about Barbara Streisand. It's not, unless there are some additional parallels I didn't catch.
Although Funny Girl is a light read, it touches on some serious subjects. Here's a quote from the wife of one of the writers, a bisexual man who is having some issues with his decision to lead a heterosexual life:
“It's funny, sex,” she said. “It's a little thing, like a glass of water is a little thing, or something that falls off a car and only costs a couple of bob to replace. It's only a little thing, but nothing works without it.”
One of the subplots of this novel is about the definition of success, specifically the difference between fame and serious art. I enjoyed Hornby's opinion on this subject and I agree with him, mostly.
However, it is the characters that I enjoyed the most. Barbara/Sophie thinks in a simple way that makes a great deal of sense. I loved that about her and I loved her relationships with her family and with her coworkers.
Steve Lindahl – author of Motherless Soul and White Horse Regressions
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