To get the most enjoyment from Funny Girl by Nick Hornby, you probably have to be British, involved with the arts, or a child of the ‘60s. I qualify on two of those counts, so I thought it was a quirkily wonderful read.
The book follows Barbara, a working class girl with aspirations to become the next Lucille Ball. She leaves Blackpool and heads for London where she talks her way into the leading role in a BBC sitcom.
The program is called Barbara (and Jim) even though Barbara herself has taken on the stage name of Sophie. As the series is renewed through the years, we get a look at the lives of the writers, producer, and other actors. An underlying theme is whether just making audiences laugh is as high a calling as writing or acting in more intellectual dramas. I often grapple with this issue of popular versus fine art myself.
We also get a sobering look at what it was like to be gay in Britain in those days. One of the writers remains closeted, marries, and fathers a child. The other comes out in a tell-all novel.
Funny Girl ends almost where it started. It is fifty years later (quite a long book), but Sophie still wants to leave them laughing. Good for her.