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Funny Girl Summary & Study Guide Description
Funny Girl Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:
Funny Girl, by Nick Hornby, chronicles the fictional tale of a young, rags to riches, girl, who longs to become the next Lucille Ball during the 1960s in London. As the story opens, Barbara Parker is a small town beauty queen. She's just become the reigning pageant winner of Blackpool England. As she watches the Mayor and his wife, a former beauty pageant winner, herself, Barbara feels as if she's looking at a possible - and terrible - future if she remains in Blackpool. All along she's been enthralled with Hollywood, the movies, and television stars. She wants to be the next Lucille Ball. She leaves for London.
Barbara arrives in London and works at a department store selling cosmetics with a girl named Marjorie. They end up rooming together in a flat in a poor section of town. They have no TV, no money to see movies, and Barbara begins to become depressed. She becomes even more depressed when Marjorie suggests that she find a boyfriend who can take her to movies, or might invite her over to watch his television. Barbara finds this outlook barbaric. However, she gives in to it when she becomes desperate to just go to a movie. She agrees to dinner and a movie with a man much older than her, Valentine Laws. This dinner date goes horribly wrong when the man's wife shows up at the restaurant. As she's leaving, she runs, literally, into a man named, Brian Debenham, who is a local talent scout and agent.
Brian sees her star quality and tells her that he wants to make her into the next top model for calendars. Barbara despises this idea since posing as a calendar girl for men to ogle isn't much better than being a beauty queen. She refuses, so Brian sends her on a series of horrible auditions for parts she is not a good fit for, but she goes anyway. At Brian's suggestion, she changes her name to Sophie Straw.
He sends her on an audition for a comedy, to a most unlikely studio, but as it turns out, she's a natural. The writers and the producer love her instantly. The reader learns that the writers of the show didn't even want to create the show because it is about traditional marriage and life, something that neither man can relate to (as they are both gay). Still, they like Sophie's candor, and they work in some of the suggestions that she's made. They offer her the part, and she takes it. She meets her co-star, Clive Richardson.
The cast and crew are assembled. Dennis will be the director. He is married to Edith, a very cold woman who uses Dennis for social status, but is cheating on him. Tony and Bill, the writers, have been gone from show business for a while because they had been incarcerated for being gay. Sophie learns on the first day of filming that her father has had a massive heart attack. Instead of leaving immediately to go to his side, and miss the taping, she stays and finishes the filming, first. Then leaves. Her father understands, but her Aunt Marie does not.
Meanwhile, the show is a hit. Clive becomes upset because he realizes that he is not the star of the show, only the secondary character, with Sophie being the main focus of the show. Everyone badgers him until he agrees to stay through the first season. He is afraid of what it will do to his macho image with the women.
Sophie meets a woman named Diane, who conducts Sophie's first media interview. They become instant friends, and Diane is her best friend throughout the entire novel. Tony decides that he should try and give the appearance of being straight, so he talks a woman,named June, into marrying him to make the sponsors of the show happy. She agrees. Bill gives Tony grief over 'selling out' and pretending to be straight.
At the end of the first season, Clive and Sophie are seen together often, adding fuel to the gossip mill that they are dating and might be getting married. Both of them don't do anything to dissuade the press, but Sophie realizes that Clive will never be a one woman man. She decides that she might have to be brave about it.
The second season starts, and in one particularly poignant and precognitive scene there is an older couple who are married and are arguing. They were starlets during their decade, but now, no one knows them. It is written as a comedy, but the irony is not lost on Sophie, who realizes that in the end, fame is like a Ferris Wheel, and while it is fun riding it to the top, there is always a downward motion.
Sophie's father and aunt come to London to visit her. He is completely recovered from his earlier ailments. Her family's country ways embarrass Sophie. They go out to eat and, while there, Sophie meets a comedy magician, named Maurice. She begins dating Maurice, but eventually realizes that he is as shallow as Clive, and more conniving. She thinks that Dennis would never treat a woman like this. This though shocks her because, while she's tremendous friends with Dennis, she's never viewed him romantically before. He has since divorced his wife for cheating on him, and has been working as the show's director for many years.
June comes to the studios to tell Tony that she is pregnant. It is at this moment that Tony realizes that he does actually love June. He makes up his mind to chalk up his homosexual encounters as just young impulsive actions, and dedicates himself full time to being a husband, and eventually a father. This angers Bill enough that he begins to finish a novel about growing up gay.
Meanwhile, the show is still doing very well. They push the envelope with the types of topics they tackle, including male impotence, women doing household repair jobs, and divorce. The household plumbing job scene is such a hit that it brings the comparison of Sophie to her idol, Lucille Ball. She feels that she has truly arrived, now.
Bill's book comes out and it is only popular to a small demographic, as he figured it would be. Still, he's very proud of it and invites Tony to the launch party. Tony realizes that he no longer fits in with this circle of friends, and feels very much the outsider. The writers bring a new cast member onto the show. Nancy is to play the femme fatale in the upcoming season, the one where Barbara and Jim get divorced. In real life, Nancy is creating a wedge between Clive and Sophie, who are now engaged. In only a few short months, Clive is sleeping with Nancy, and Sophie calls off their engagement.
Dennis decides that he has waited in the shadows long enough to approach Sophie with his feelings. While he's figuring out a way to approach her, Sophie has a shock while she is on set one day. Her estranged mother, Gloria, who ran away when Sophie was two, shows up to see her. At first Sophie is irate that the woman would have the gall to show up. Later, she agrees to see her because she wants some answers to her questions. She learns that Gloria was feeling as stifled as Sophie had been. They part with a better understanding of one another, though Sophie believes that her mother had hoped for a handout.
June and Tony's child is born and Tony devotes himself to any writing job that comes along. It is becoming clear that the new show idea, Just Barbara, isn't going to fly. The network execs want to go ahead and make a pilot, which makes Sophie and Dennis happy. Dennis finally makes his move and Sophie agrees to go out with him. She finds that she is attracted to how NOT like Clive he is, though she's not sure that she really has deep feelings for him yet. They date for a few months, and eventually she comes to deeply care for him.
The new show is a flop. No one wants to watch a divorced single mother struggle in the city. Those used to seeing Sophie in a certain role are not accepting of her in this new one. Sophie learns that she's carrying Dennis's baby. Her agent suggests she get a quiet abortion, but she is appalled. She tells Dennis who is ecstatic. They are married, and Sophie leaves London's media scene behind.
The novel leaps forward twenty years. There is a reunion show being planned and all of the old cast and crew are gathered together, just like old times. Sophie sees that of all of them, only she, Dennis, and Tony/June, have lived happy and fulfilling lives. Everyone else are miserable and hollow inside. She feels very sorry for them all. The novel ends with the shooting of the reunion show, and Sophie realizing that she has missed these people, but more importantly, she has missed the work. She is grateful that she has been able during her lifetime to achieve all that she ever wanted.
This section contains 1,546 words
(approx. 4 pages at 400 words per page)