Funny Girl: A Novel by Nick Hornby
Funny is quite right – laugh out loud funny, in fact.
The book is set in the nineteen sixties – what an era of change that was – and features Barbara, a young woman from Blackpool in the north of England whose heroine is Lucille Ball. Barbara wants to be on television too, to make people laugh.
And Barbara certainly has several assets that make her look great on television. At the beginning of the book she has just been crowned Miss Blackpool in the local beauty pageant.
But this is the sixties.
When she goes to live in London, the men she meets who could help her achieve her ambition and be on television can’t see further than her, um, obvious attractions.
But Barbara is funny. And bold. Plus determined.
In London, working behind the cosmetic counter of Derry and Toms department store and sharing a shabby bedsit with another shop assistant isn’t exactly the exciting start she was looking for. They don’t even have a television – not really a good start for a girl who wants to make a career in the medium.
Nevertheless, Barbara comes to the attention of an agent who takes her under his wing. She is persuaded to leave the name of Barbara Parker and become Sophie Straw. But he, like all the other men she meets in the entertainment business, wants her to appear silently and smilingly on game shows wearing a swimsuit…
Barbara, or Sophie now, persuades him to send her for an audition for a new BBC play, a comedy. It’s just thirty minute show but it could be the break she’s looking for. But when she goes to the audition, she finds that the four men there simply laugh at her the minute they see her.
The part is that of a well educated but dippy young woman – a preacher’s daughter – and with Barbara’s attractions she looks to be the direct opposite of the part she wants to play. But she soons persuades them otherwise. In fact, before their meeting is over, they are completely re-writing the play especially for her.
The play is more than a mere success when it’s shown on television – it develops into a series, starring Barbara / Sophie. Suddenly, amid the chaos the the sixties, Sophie Straw becomes a household name. See more on Amazon.
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