The ridiculously short review
- Three hypochondriacs - JKJ, George and Harris - (and their dog, Montmorency) decide to go on a boating holiday on the Thames in order to recuperate from all the maladies in the world that, they firmly decide, have manifested in them. Hilarity ensues.The "slightly" longer review
- This gem of a book is laugh-out loud from start to finish. JKJ reminds you of P.G Wodehouse a bit, in his style of writing (I know JKJ was before Wodehouse, but I read the latter's works first) though, somehow, I found JKJ's style more easy to read than Wodehouse's. It is simple, direct and the humour is just as relevant and witty even today.
The book is generously peppered with witty anecdotes, hilarious observances and even the occasional sombre moments. JKJ, I felt, is at his best when he is recounting something that happened in the past, or explaining a hypothetical situation, rather than when he's recounting what's happening in the current trip or going all poetic while describing Mother Nature.
Some of the parts that I nearly choked while laughing were -
* When JKJ explains what putting up a tent in rainy weather entails.
* The time Uncle Podger decided to hang a picture frame on the wall.
* The time they used an oil-stove to cook food.
* The time he decided to carry some cheese home for a friend.
* The time Harris and he got lost in the maze at Hampton Courts.
* When he explains, just how exactly, tow-lines are a health hazard.
* The time he always ran into the same couple getting cosy, no matter
where he went.
* "Harris and the Swans, a remarkable story"
I'll finish with a few quotes from the book - if that shouldn't make one read the book then I dont know what will!That's Harris all over - so ready to take the burden of everything himself, and put it on the backs of other people.
Let your boat of life be light, packed with only what you need - a homely home and simple pleasures, one or two friends, worth the name, someone to love and someone to love you, a cat, a dog, and a pipe or two, enough to eat and enough to wear, and a little more than enough to drink; for thirst is a dangerous thing.
Montmorency's ambition in life, is to get in the way and be sworn at.
I do think that, of all the silly, irritating tomfoolishness by which we are plagued, this "weather-forecast" fraud is about the most aggravating. It "forecasts" precisely what happened yesterday or a the day before, and precisely the opposite of what is going to happen to-day. But who wants to be foretold the weather? It is bad enough when it comes, without our having the misery of knowing about it beforehand.
The barometer is useless: it is as misleading as the newspaper forecast. There was one hanging up in a hotel at Oxford at which I was staying last spring, and, when I got there, it was pointing to "set fair." It was simply pouring with rain outside, and had been all day; and I couldn't quite make matters out. I tapped the barometer, and it jumped up and pointed to "very dry."
I tapped it again the next morning, and it went up still higher, and the rain came down faster than ever. On Wednesday I went and hit it again, and the pointer went round towards "set fair," "very dry," and "much heat," until it was stopped by the peg, and couldn't go any further. It tried its best, but the instrument was built so that it couldn't prophesy fine weather any harder than it did without breaking itself. It evidently wanted to go on, and prognosticate drought, and water famine, and sunstroke, and simooms, and such things, but the peg prevented it, and it had to be content with pointing to the mere commonplace "very dry."
[On George's new hat] - George put it on, and asked us what we thought of it. Harris said that, as an object to hang over a flower-bed in early spring to frighten the birds away, he should respect it; but that, considered as an article of dress for any human being, it made him ill.
I asked my cousin if she thought it could be a dream, and she replied that she was just about to ask me the same question; and then we both wondered if we were both asleep, and if so, who was the real one that was dreaming, and who was the one that was only a dream; it got quite interesting.
People who have tried it, tell me that a clear conscience makes you very happy and contented; but a full stomach does the business quite as well, and is cheaper, and more easily obtained.
We had knocked those three old gentlemen off their chairs into a general heap at the bottom of the boat, and they were now slowly and painfully sorting themselves out from each other, and picking fish off themselves; and as they worked, 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.
I like work: it fascinates me. I can sit and look at it for hours.
We went into the parlour and sat down. There was an old fellow there, smoking a long clay pipe, and we naturally began chatting. He told us that it had been a fine day to-day, and we told him that it had been a fine day yesterday, and then we all told each other that we thought it would be a fine day to-morrow.