I feel weird reviewing classics. I have this feeling that everyone else even vaguely interested in Victoriana has already read everything I have. In any case, my full review of Jerome K. Jerome’s Three Men in a Boat is on Goodreads.

Cover of the novel 'Three Men in  Boat,' by Jerome K. Jerome.

Hotlinked from Goodreads

I don’t read a ton of classics. I like them well enough, but most of them don’t resonate with me. There’s too much time welled up between me and them. Sometimes that’s wonderful, but sometimes it makes reading a chore, because now I have to stop reading and research something.

So I’m always shocked when I read late Victorian novels, because they aren’t like that. They’re startlingly, amazingly modern.

Three Men in a Boat is like that. It was written 125 years ago, but it’s completely and entirely understandable to the modern reader–and it’s hilarious. The things the narrator rags about are so completely modern, too. He hates forgetting his toothbrush so much he always packs it first, then realizes he has to unpack half the bag to get at it. The weather report is always wrong. He reads medical pamphlets at the doctor and convinces himself he has every disease in existence. He jokes about a future with Japanese tourists buying up Victorian knick-knacks.

Of course, it’s still a very old book. You remember that when the author casually uses the N-word and when he implies that 12-hour workdays are normal. But all in all, it’s a collection of funny anecdotes, delivered with extremely dry, sarcastic wit, and most of the book is completely charming.

It really goes to show you how little distance there really is between us and the Victorians.

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