Three Men in a Boat [Book Review]

Hanging out with friends could be the most pleasant and interesting times one can have. Of late, on one such gathering I met four of my friends at my place for a wedding. By the end of the long day, after a good meal, we sat up for coffee to ease down the tiredness, at a lesser known but cool & silent cafe in the the neighborhood of  our Alma mater. While any of us hardly knew anything about these  trendy coffee spin-offs in the A-la-Carte, being the host kind-of, it came upon me to order something for us. J who felt achy much wanted something really hot. I ordered hot cafe latte with cream or caramel sorts. And without much attention to the menu descriptions I ordered Affogato for J, who expected something just out of the cauldron. Well Affogato sounded fancy! When we were served our steaming big cuppa coffees, J’s face drooped, his puzzled eyes widening upon me, ‘cos technically Affogato,

“takes the form of a scoop of vanilla gelato or ice cream topped with a shot of hot espresso”

Just only a small shot of hot espresso!

Be it 19th or 21st century, friends are always the same. Jerome K.Jerome’s “Three Men in a Boat” is a classic British comedy accounting the adventurous or rather hilarious trip over river Thames by three friends – Harris, George and the first person narrator (the author himself). To whatever tasks these guys are on, the author easily laces ’em up with a natural sarcasm fitting the characters and that would very well resonate among our friends too. More than the trip itself Jerome – like an old-man’s never-ending anecdotes, backs every episode with a prologue that would almost put you ROFL.


The plot beings with all one of the friends anxious of having many illness or at least having a feeling of surely having the symptoms, even some that might not have been discovered yet. Thats kinda like obsessive googling in the present day. The protagonist browses all the medical illustrations in a library only to come to a conclusion that he had all sorts of illness. So the trio come to the simplest resolution of taking up a leisurely trip by the river that would relieve them of their mundane routines and of course get them rid of their medical paranoia. From starting to prepare for the journey jotting down the requirements, packing, starting off on the boat, getting up the canvas for camping, visiting tombs, towing the boat and finally to returning by rail owing to the worsening weather everything is a hilarious riot. For that was not enough, all the back stories and anecdotes that precede the events are hysterically funny. Utterly sarcastic at every turn of the page. Even a thing like a kettle that is nothing to be excited about becomes amusing in the below words of Jerome,

We put up the kettle on to boil and pretended to take no notice of it… That is the only way to get a kettle boil up… If it sees you are waiting for it and are anxious it will never even sing… It is a good plan, too, to talk very loudly to each other about how you don’t need any tea and are not going to have any… you shout out, so that the kettle can overhear you, “I don’t want any tea; do you George?” to which George shouts back “Oh, no, I don’t like tea; we’ll have lemonade instead…” Upon which the kettle boils over..

 There is also some thing so obvious and default among friends. Friends always have their way of getting into the middle of matters, mess up and get cursed from within and outsiders. And this is how that happens in this travelogue,

… We had knocked those three old gentlemen off their chairs… as they worked (sorting themselves out), they cursed us – not with a common cursory curse, but with long, carefully thought-out, comprehensive curses, that embraced the whole of our career, and went away into the distant future and included all our relations, and covered everything connected with us…

Though the book may be of comedy genre the author adds profound expressions at places most appropriate. About life, nature and as children of Mother Nature how we would communicate our sadness to her, just by a moan. No words would be necessary to talk to her. He also draws realization, upon packing, about keeping the life simple without adding the burdens of materialistic possessions – life packed light and how one would feel contented when one’s stomach is satisfied. True, “… a clear conscience makes you very happy and contented; but a full stomach does the business quiet as well”. 

So, this is a must read if like your pass-time to be of bursting laughter that you would try to stifle often to the room. And finally, this sentence, just this single sentence, actually piqued my interest to read this book, “everything has its drawbacks, as the man said when his mother-in-law died, and they came down upon him for the funeral expenses”.  Guess that would draw you too!


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