What a little gem of a book this is! Perfectly evoking the era of the late 19th Century, this witty narrative of three young men embarking on a boating break is just charming. Quintessentially English, J. has decided he has every ailment in the medical dictionary, to which his doctor prescribes him:
1 lb. of beefsteak, with 1 pt. bitter beer every 6 hours.
1 ten-mile walk every morning.
1 bed at 11 sharp every night.
And don’t stuff up you head with things you don’t understand.
A canvas covered boat, meandering down the river Thames from Kingston to Oxford, results in a series of anecdotes about the places they visit, the people they meet, as well as the realities of three young men spending 24 hour a day in each others company. Although there are some elements of a travelogue about the story, the best elements are definitely the observations of the three young men living together, and while we only see this from J’s point of view, it is written in such a way to allow you to read between the lines and see the reality of their various predicaments. For example, J. obviously thinks he is doing all the work to keep the boat and the trip moving along nicely, but each of the others thinks they are also taking on more than their own fair share of chores!
The humour and style reminded me a lot of The Diary of a Nobody by George and Weedon Grossmith, a book I thoroughly enjoyed last year, and I’ll definitely be reading the follow up to this one, Three Men on the Bummel.