Classics Club Review: Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome

Three Men in a Boat: To Say Nothing of the Dog, Jerome K. Jerome

Originally Published 1889

After self-diagnoses of almost every ailment under the sun, friends George, Harris, and J. decide to take a break with a leisurely jaunt up the river Thames. Naturally, not everything goes to plan for this absurd trio, and they encounter their share of farcical adventures along the way. Throughout the excursion, they must deal with the (hilarious) drama of: packing and unpacking the rowboat to find missing objects, contradictory weather reports, stubborn tea kettles, terrible singing, and errant tow ropes-to say nothing of the dog.

This would be a great  classic for anyone who is a little intimidated by Victorian literature. It is incredibly readable with a highly anecdotal style of writing. Three Men in a Boat is light, entertaining, and absurdly funny. So much of the humor is completely timeless, and I laughed out loud more times than I can count. The struggle with the pineapple tin, the group photo on the river, and the story of the Hampton Court maze were some of my favorite moments. As a Terrier owner, I also loved all the mentions of the Fox Terrier Montmorency. Jerome K. Jerome was clearly familiar with the terrier group!

At times I found Three Men in a Boat to be a little too rambling and ridiculous. However, I think I did myself a disservice in regards to the way I read this comedic classic. Firstly, I read from the free Kindle edition, and there was some strange formatting and typos that were at times a bit jarring. Secondly, I read this in small parts over several months this summer. For most of that time, it was my bedtime reading before I fell asleep. All this is to say, I don’t think I set myself up to have the most enjoyable reading experience possible.

In fact, I think I would’ve given Three Men in a Boat a higher rating if I had: a) read from a better edition and b) read it in a shorter period of time. The slight tediousness I felt with this book was most likely of my own creation. Looks like I’ll just have to plan to re-read this charming satirical classic in the future!


Here are a few of my favorite quotes:

“It always does seem to me that I am doing more work than I should do. It is not that I object to the work, mind you; I like work: it fascinates me. I can sit and look at it for hours. I love to keep it by me: the idea of getting rid of it nearly breaks my heart.” (79)

“What the eye does not see, the stomach does not get upset over.” (71)

“We both turned round, and tried to go to sleep again, but we could not. Had there been any particular reason why we should not have gone to sleep again, but have got up and dressed then and there, we should have dropped off while we were looking at our watches, and have slept till ten. As there was no earthly necessity for our getting up under another two hours at the very least, and our getting up at that time was an utter absurdity, it was only in keeping with the natural cussedness of things in general that we should both feel that lying down for five minutes more would be death to us.” (54)

“It seems to be the rule of this world. Each person has what he doesn’t want, and other people have what he does want.” (29)

“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.” (25)

“Had I packed my tooth-brush? I don’t know how it is, but I never do know whether I’ve packed my tooth-brush. My tooth-brush is a thing that haunts me when I’m traveling, and makes my life a misery. I dream that I haven’t packed it, and wake up in a cold perspiration, and get out of bed and hunt for it.” (20)



7 thoughts on “Classics Club Review: Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome

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  1. This sounds so amusing! Like you, I have an e-book, and it is the kind of thing I would read in dribs and drabs too. Many people have recommended it, and perhaps I will finally read it.

    Liked by 1 person

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