The ​book was meant to be a serious travel guide recounting a river trip from Kingston to Oxford undertaken by three young men, but Jerome’s rambling anecdotes and humorous take on travellers J, Harris and George – and J’s feckless fox terrier, Montmorency – turned it into something far rarer: an honest account of male friendship.

This pompous, hapless and touching trio are very familiar; in fact, reading this, it feels as if the only difference between modern and Victorian men is the latters’ interest in pipe smoking. Jerome’s narrative meanders through such wildly varied topics as hypochondria, tents, girls’ uselessness in a boat, playing the bagpipes and making an Irish stew as his trio grumble, drink, smoke and snooze on the river. Yes, the prose quality varies, but the pleasure you derive makes up for that. It’s funny and gentle.

Reading it is like spending time with a favourite uncle whose anecdotes you’d happily listen to over and over again because it makes him happy and it makes you laugh. And there’s nothing common or vulgar about that.

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