David L. Ulin at The LA Times:
Hornby has written about other female protagonists: Annie in “Juliet, Naked,” Katie Carr in “How to Be Good.” There's something more expansive, though, in “Funny Girl,” which is as sedate a work as he has produced. What I mean is that this is a book that takes the long view, that seeks to give us a broad sense of its characters' circumstances. In that regard, its 1960s setting serves a double purpose — first, to engage us in the energy of the era's burgeoning youth culture, and second, to remind us of the speed with which time eclipses all.
Sophie is an appropriate signifier: “Here was everything they wanted to bring to the screen,” Hornby writes of the production team that discovers her, “in one neat and beautifully gift-wrapped package, handed to them by a ferocious and undiscovered talent who looked like a star. The class system, men and women and the relationships between them, snobbery, education, the North and the South, politics, the way that a new country seemed to be emerging from the dismal old one that they'd all grown up in.”
The members of that team are the novel's other central players — Clive, the leading man who becomes Sophie's faithless fiancé; Dennis, the producer-director who loves her from a distance; the writers, Bill and Tony — one gay, the other married but (perhaps) closeted. It adds up to the portrait of a culture in transition, in which “[w]hat was once both pertinent and laudably impertinent became familiar and sometimes even a little polite.”