Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Diary of a Nobody by George and Weedon Grossmith

After Dr. Thorne, I was tempted to jump right back into another big fat Victorian doorstopper, but on a whim I grabbed Diary of a Nobody and put it in my bookbag on my way to work the other day, thinking it would be a fun, light read on my lunch hour, and as it's epistolary fiction, it would be easy to read in bits and pieces during breaks.

True, it was an easy, light read, but somewhat disappointing.  It's supposed to be hilarious, but it was nowhere near as good as Three Men in a Boat or one of my favorite epistolary novels, The Diary of a Provincial Lady.  Both of these had me laughing out loud and I recommend them over and over.  Honestly, Diary of a Nobody is just meh.

Diary of a Nobody was published in 1892, serialized in Punch magazine.  It's the story of Mr. Pooter, a middle-aged senior clerk at some financial institution in the City of London.  He begins a new diary after he moves into a new house in a London suburb with his wife Carrie, and it's a year in his life.  Pooter's life is pretty ordinary, but he thinks he's fascinating.  It's just little vignettes about his life.  It's mildly amusing and interesting to read about what Victorian life was like (if this can be interpreted as truly representative) but I didn't find it that funny.  I barely cracked a smile most of the time I was reading it.  It was okay, but I can't really see myself recommending it to anyone except the most die-hard fans of Victorian literature.  It's especially disappointing because I bought this book since it wasn't available at my library, and I've moved twice since I bought it, which means I've packed and unpacked it twice!  Hmpf.

The best things about it were that it's very short, just about 130 pages, and I finally read it and can take it off the TBR bookshelf.  It also counts toward my both my Victorian Challenge, and my Classics Challenge, though foolishly I didn't put it on the list for my TBR Challenge -- I sort of thought it would be cheating to repeat too many books on my challenges.  Oh well, I'll know better next year.

Now I have to decide if I should tackle Martin Chuzzlewit, which I'm supposed to be reading with an online group over a period of several months; or Framley Parsonage, which I checked out from the library.  I honestly don't think I can handle both of them at the same time.  Bloggers, what do you think?  Dickens or Trollope?  Or something completely different?  And has anyone else read Diary of a Nobody?  Did you love it or were you disappointed, like me?


  1. I vote for Framley Parsonage, which is a very good Barsetshire book - but then I'm prejudiced in favor of Trollope.

    I haven't read The Diary of a Nobody, but I remember Susan Hill wrote about it in Howards End is on the Landing, as one she found disappointing on re-reading (only "funny-ish") - she felt the same way about Three Men in a Boat.

  2. Lisa May -- I've read Three Men in a Boat a couple of times (well, listened to the audio, actually) -- and I still find it hilarious. But then I enjoy Jeeves & Wooster and that sort of thing. Maybe it's just not her type of humor.

    Did you like Howards End is on the Landing? Many people have strong opinions about this one way or the other. I tried reading it months ago and found it pretentious and annoying, but I may have just been the timing.

  3. Oh, it's so sad when a book that has spent EONS on your TBR shelf ends up being very disappointing. I've had that happen to me more times than I would like to admit. But, onwards and upwards! At least it's read now :-)

  4. Hill is a major Wodehouse fan! I loved Howards End is on the Landing, though I'd never heard of a lot of the books that she talks about. She has a great chapter on Trollope and Dickens.

  5. Aarti -- Good point. I'll have to put it on the giveaway pile and move on.

    Lisa May -- I'll have to get Howards End is on the Landing just to read the chapter on Trollope and Dickens. I love them so.

  6. Oh I'm so sorry you didn't enjoy this - I read it at college and laughed so much and out loud that the girl in the room next to me came round to see what I was doing :(

  7. Sometimes humour does differ over time, I have yet to read Three men in a boat as I wonder if I will find it funny although judging by the rest of the comments I will.

  8. Verity -- I didn't dislike it, I just didn't find it especially funny. Maybe the humor was just too subtle for me.

    Jessica -- If you like Wodehouse, you'd probably like Three Men in a Boat. I usually describe it to people as Jeeves and Wooster-ish, but if Bertie Wooster brought two equally clueless friends on a boat trip, but left Jeeves behind and brought a dog instead.

  9. I'm sorry the book was disappointing, especially since Victorian Literature has so much to offer!
    I have never read Trollope (yes, it's a shame) but if you want to dive into a good example of Victorian Literature as a contrast to this bad, I'd advise you to read Martin Chuzzlewit. There's no one quite like Dickens ;)

  10. I've never heard of George and Weedon Grossmith or this book, I've learned something new today! It sounds like I should skip this one and look for Three Men in a Boat or Diary of a Provencial Lady. Something new to add to my "TBR" list!

    I think you should read Martin Chuzzlewit only because we are focusing on Dickens for the Victorian Challenge in February to celebrate his 200th birthday!