Three Men In A Boat | Book Review

The chief beauty of this book lies not so much in its literary style, or in the extent and usefulness of the information it conveys, as in its simple truthfulness. 
― Jerome K. Jerome, Three Men in a Boat


Jerome K Jerome was born on 2 May, 1859 in Caldmore, England. He was an English author, playwright, editor and humorist and is best known for the comic travelogue, “Three Men In a Boat”. He published his autobiography, ‘My Life and Times’ in 1926 and died shortly after on 14 June, 1927, aged 68. His gravestone reads, “For we are labourers together with God.”


Novel, Adventure fiction [Courtesy of Google]


This book was an instant success when it was published in 1889 and still continues to amuse readers of the 21st century. It is basically about how Jerome, the author and narrator goes on a trip with his two best friends, George and Harris. His dog, Montmorency is a vital character in the book and adds more reason to maintain the humor. The book details their preparation, the journey and the events that happen during the course of this journey.

We must not think of the things we could do with, but only of the things that we can’t do without.

I loved how the author paid attention to every tiny incident that we would overlook had we attempted to write something based on our lives. He has not only dramatised common occurrences masterfully but has also expressed it in a wonderfully captivating and hilarious manner. These are instances that happen in our daily lives, which we hardly pay any attention because they are ‘usual’. But the author’s inclusion of such instances makes the book a ridiculously relatable book for all and this is also why it has remained a favourite with readers spanning centuries. He has actually made the little things matter.

I don’t know why it should be, I am sure; but the sight of another man asleep in bed when I am up, maddens me.

This book has been written in such a manner that the reader too is taken on this journey along the Thames. Jerome has provided beautifully descriptive accounts of his preparation for the journey along with that of his friends and Montmorency’s occasionally present but generously distributed bouts of mischief. The bond between the author and his friends and with his dog is evident throughout and provides a warm feeling of comfort and family to the whole book.

Fox-terriers are born with about four times as much original sin in them as other dogs are, and it will take years and years of patient effort on the part of us Christians to bring about any appreciable reformation in the rowdiness of the fox-terrier nature. 

The sarcasm and humor in this book is just perfect. Unlike most modern writers who say ‘duh’ and ‘*roll their eyes*’, Jerome’s ideas and sentences could be considered classic humour and sarcasm that has achieved the level of perfection. He has boldly written about thoughts that most keep to themselves and this is also a reason for why it’s popular and loved among the young generation. His remarks on food and hunger are humorous and relatable and have been presented in a very casual manner.

It must have been worth while having a mere ordinary plague now and then in London to get rid of both the lawyers and the Parliament.

Given below is a quote that sent me into a fit of laughter that remained for quite a bit. Notice his casual undertone here.

…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 – good, substantial curses.

This book’s more distinguishing aspect would be the inclusion of past happenings related to the present. The author has taken care to include his past experiences with someone or something every now and then and these always have a lesson that the reader can learn. Again, these are generally overlooked tidbits of life but are nonetheless insightful and welcome. I especially loved the strong sarcasm present throughout the book and the honesty the narrator exhibited in mentioning his own views and opinions of people and happenings.

My tooth-brush is a thing that haunts me when I’m travelling, and makes my life a misery.

It would be a crime not to mention the educational aspect of this book. Like Dan Brown’s book being a gem for Science lovers, Jerome’s travelogue, ‘Three Men In A Boat’ offers a rich and detailed account of historical events as the narrator and his friends pass certain historically important places along the river Thames. Unlike History books, the tinge of humor that the author adds to these accounts makes them come across as informative and intriguing at the same time. Something, that most of today’s textbooks fail at doing so. These accounts are so detailed that the readers unknowingly form a vivid and richly intricate image in their minds.

……….when Kingston was a royal borough, and nobles and courtiers lived there, near their King, and the long road to the palace gates was gay all day with clanking steel and prancing palfreys, and rustling silks and velvets, and fair faces.  The large and spacious houses, with their oriel, latticed windows, their huge fireplaces, and their gabled roofs, breathe of the days of hose and doublet, of pearl-embroidered stomachers, and complicated oaths.

Apart from all that has been mentioned above, the author’s brilliant poetic language adds a wonderful element of language and literature to it. He has made seemingly random scenes seem so magnificently beautiful. He has romanticized nature so flawlessly while making sure that the description remains unique to a particular place. His use of poetic language makes this book a favorite with poetry lovers as well.

Be eloquent, and deep, and tender; see, with a clear eye, into Nature and into life; spread your white wings of quivering thought, and soar, a god-like spirit, over the whirling world beneath you, up through long lanes of flaming stars to the gates of eternity!

Most books that have a lot of characters usually focus on one or two main characters but this is not the case in this book. The author who is also the narrator here has laid ample emphasis on George, Harris and the dog too. All three characters are mentioned frequently throughout the story and their past experiences have also been included. Their strong friendship is evident in the remarks they make of each other and in the extend to how well each knows the other. Their friendly banter is also an amazing addition to what is already a splendid book.

That’s Harris all over—so ready to take the burden of everything himself, and put it on the backs of other people.

Jerome K Jerome’s flawless attempts at entwining the history of such picturesque places along with his hilariously eventful journey has been carried out wonderfully. The random bits and pieces of wisdom too make this book worth reading. His writing style is amusing and has got a great flow to it. Travellers will find it a gem of informative accounts while those who read for pleasure will end up returning to read it a second and third time. This made for a wonderful and wholesome read. Like every book, this one had a few downsides, the most evident being the unnecessary length of the historic accounts. But the good aspects clearly outweigh the bad and this book is undoubtedly worth the read.

It seems to be the rule of this world.  Each person has what he doesn’t want, and other people have what he does want.


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