Funny Girl

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Funny Girl
464 pages; Riverhead
Nick Hornby's latest book contemplates the power of beauty, but Hornby's protagonist uses hers to her advantage. Sophie is a comedian with the face and body of a bombshell. She'll do anything to realize her ambition to become England's Lucille Ball, including postponing a visit to her father, who's just had a heart attack, in favor of doing a TV taping. Set behind the scenes of a 1960s sitcom, this pleasingly old-fashioned novel follows Sophie as she rockets to fame. Both endearing and insufferable, Sophie is ultimately irresistible, thanks to her unfailing ability to catch herself in the act of being shallow. After she opts not to run to see her ailing dad, Hornby writes that Sophie had "always suspected that she was the sort of girl who wouldn't go home to see a sick father if she had a shot at a television series."

If beauty is a gilded cage, it's one it is possible to escape and thrive outside of, if you have the heart and guts of this heroine.
— Leigh Haber