Nick Hornby’s newest novel “Funny Girl” is receiving mainly positive reviews for its story about a TV star living in England in the 1960s.
The book, which centers on Sophie, star of the sitcom “Barbara (& Jim),” is being released on Feb. 3. Hornby is also the author of such books as “High Fidelity” and “About a Boy.”
Both the Monitor and Amazon selected “Girl” as one of the best books of February, with Amazon editorial director Sara Nelson saying of the book, “It's really about the '60s.... [The supporting characters are really great.”
“Girl” has received praise elsewhere as well. Publishers Weekly awarded it a starred review, writing of the novel, “Hornby wonderfully captures the voice and rhythms of broadcast television of the time, and seems to delight in endless inversions of art imitating life imitating art, his characters inspiring and feeding upon the storylines they produce. The result is a delightful collection of characters that care as much as they harm, each struggling to determine who they want to be.” Kirkus Reviews also gave it a starred review, writing, “Hornby makes the reader care for his characters as much as he does and retains a light touch with the deeper social implications…. funny, and sad.”
Meanwhile, New York Times writer Janet Maslin wrote that the book is “rambunctious…. [with] witty illustrations…. [S]omething about the chemistry among writers, actors and their producer-director … really clicks…. As in any Hornby novel, the mood stays breezy.”
And Guardian writer Joe Moran wrote that "Hornby nicely recreates a certain version of 1960s London.... Nothing Hornby writes could ever be a chore to read, and 'Funny Girl' displays his usual talents for narrative zip and easy human sympathy.... The interior monologues feel undeveloped and the language used to convey feeling, gesture and mood doesn’t work hard enough.... But the book’s dialogue – and there are whole sections that consist almost entirely of direct speech – is fast and funny."
However, Los Angeles Times critic David L. Ulin found that “[there is] a flatness in the novel, a lack of full dimensionality. It's not that ‘Funny Girl’ is unenjoyable; like much of Hornby's writing, it is funny and fast moving, perceptive and sharp. There is, however, no edge of consequence, no real sense of stakes.”
Library Journal was also not won over, with LJ’s Christine Perkins of Washington’s Whatcomb City Library System writing, “While the fictionalized historical parts are compelling, the overall tone is flat, and the characters lack dimension. For a novel about comedy, the humor is off camera, implied but not evident. Hornby's … usual spark is missing. A readable but melancholy and definitely not funny book.”