Thursday, 10 October 2013

Review: Idle Thoughts Of An Idle Fellow, by Jerome K. Jerome

Whilst not my usual fare, I was very kindly sent a copy by a friend and (once I’d finished The Hundred Years War by Christopher Allmand) gave it a go.

As suggested by the title, the book is a series of lazy musings on various aspects of life, with chapters on the weather, shyness, cats and dogs and so forth.

Being first published in 1886, it’s still surprisingly relevant, and whilst one suspects that if it were written today there might be chapters on mobile phones and the internet what has been written, by and large, still holds true. Where it does not the sentiment behind the author’s words is still easy to appreciate.

In terms of language, being over a hundred years old has very little impact on readability. It’s always clear what the meaning is, and perhaps three or four words in the whole book were new to me. The style of writing is easy to read and rather good.

Here and there the meandering approach was such that I was left a little unengaged, and I did take a short break from the book about halfway through. And whilst the use of language is generally very good, towards the end when the author was describing the ultimate fate of us all (a subject that leaves me either bored or depressed) I did skip a page or two (that’s probably a testament to the quality of the writing, though).

Despite these little gripes, overall I did enjoy the book, and it also has the financial advantage of being available for free, should you happen to have an e-reader.

It does make me wonder if the 19th century might be the perfect time for writing, as the language is modern enough to be understood with ease (I do like Gibbon but he, like Thucydides, is unafraid to use 9 clauses in a sentence) but is nevertheless rather elegant and pleasing to read.

On the other hand, Dracula is a bloody awful book. Hmm…



  1. Oh, Thaddeus! There is nothing wrong with your review as such. Nothing I can point to and say, "That's wrong", but, my dear chap, you have given us such thin gruel.

    For a start you don't mention that it is a work of humour. The author sets out to make you laugh. Did it make you laugh? I have, in response to you review, just dug out my copy and re-read (after 25 years at least) the first three pages of the chapter entitled, "Cats and Dogs". I had four knowing smiles, three chuckles and one damn good belly-laugh (at which I had to put the book down and put finger to keyboard). The way he switches from the outrageously boisterous dog being blocked by a kitten, through to the benefits of swearing (and what his aunt had to say about the practice), and then the way he uses the line, "I don't mind so much hearing an old cat swear, but I can't bear to see a mere kitten give way to it" is classic, written, comedy timing, beautifully delivered.

    I think "Idle Thoughts" is a fun book, written in a fun style, that contains plenty of laughs and despite being 130 years old is as relevant and amusing today as when it was written.

  2. Mr. Llama, whilst I didn't say it was a work of humour directly I thought that 'lazy musings' conveyed that sort of sentiment (well, that was my intention, anyway).

    It's an enjoyable read, certainly, but I never found myself devouring thrice as much as I'd expected to.