It looked like a breezy read, a good natured gently comical novel. Certainly it is not at all hard to read but nevertheless this book was a grind for me to get through. Humorous novels suffer a great disadvantage in that I tend to expect to find something to laugh at on each every page. This is quite a tall order and very hard for most books to accomplish. P.G. Wodehouse, Oscar Wilde, Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett often make me laugh with their fiction but generally I try to avoid comedy novels. I prefer humour to be a facet of the novel rather than the focus. Novels which are based on plots, thrills and characterization, including serious novels often make me laugh when the author slip in humorous scenes or dialogue at unexpected moments. This help to balance the overall tone of the book for me. Dickens is often funny somewhere in his long novels, even Victor Hugo's Les Mis
has funny bits.
With Three Men in a Boat
I am surprised to find that the humour totally fell flat for me. I find the humour in this book is very tame, very polite and centered on the silliness of the protagonists, particularly the narrator. The style of narration is also rather whimsical, going off on tangents with little supposedly comical vignettes every few paragraphs. Unfortunately I did not find any of it funny. The characters are indeed suitably silly but there is no depth to them, they are all self absorbed and I could not work up any interest in their antics. Tomfooleries like getting up late, waiting for a defiant kettle to boil, drinking horrible tea and whatnot leave me cold.
The entire enterprise seems completely pointless from beginning to end, and not a single chuckle escaped me. OK, it is a beloved classic which has been in print for more than a century so I have to respect it for that. If you find it funny I respect that too, but humour is very subjective and I subjected myself to this. Ah well, what you gonna do?