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"About a boy" is a book by Nick Hornby. There was a film adaptation of the book made in 2002 which stars Hugh Grant and Rachel Weisz.
The book is set in London in the 1990s and we are firstly introduced to the character of Marcus, who is a twelve year old boy living with his mother. His mother Fiona is slightly eccentric, or at the very least a bit 'different' to the rest of society, often exercising some views and tastes or styles that wouldn't be out of place in a 1970s hippy commune, and she seems to enjoy allowing these traits and styles to envelop her son and his opinions too. This is unfortunate for Marcus, because attending school in the 1990s with no knowledge of current teenage trends or musical influences, together with a fashion sense that is better suited to a pensioner than a teenage boy makes him the centre of attention....
We are then given an insight into Will, who is a thirty-something single man enjoying a busy social life and a laid-back attitude to life and relationships. This is all peppered with an expensive taste in fashion, gadgets and dining out, all of which Will can enjoy fully without working, as a result of a substantial inheritance that has made him rich. Will has many questionable traits which vary from lying, to womanising to dabbling in soft drugs, and the character is an unlikeable one, to begin with at least.
As the story progresses, we see how both the male lead characters are introduced to each other at a picnic, as a result of a mutual friend Suzie, who is a friend of Fiona. The events that unfold on that day sets a chain of events in motion and Marcus and Will become unlikely friends. Friends who are very different from each other and have little in common, but friends nonetheless....
* MY OPINION *
What I liked most about this book was the author's writing style. So easy to read and completely captivating, the author has used quite intense imagery in a lot of the storylines, which really helped to convey the characters' facial expressions and feelings to me. This resulted in me becoming quite engrossed in each of the characters and their involvement in the story, so much so that I struggled to put it down and read all 278 pages in a 24 hour period.
I found the character of Will was very annoying, but this has been done on purpose by the author in my opinion, so that we think of him as quite shallow and egotistic. The reason for the author writing Will's characteristics and opinions in this way becomes obvious as the story progresses, and it makes certain feelings that Will experiences later in the book seem much more intense and significant. I think it is therefore quite obvious that the reader of the book is not supposed to particularly like Will or feel any sort of 'warm' emotion towards him, in the first part of the book at least.
As for Marcus, I really couldn't help but feel sorry for the youngster. Forced to up-sticks and move to London at the tender age of 12 is surely traumatic enough for an almost-teenage boy, but to be forced into wearing 'hairy' jumpers to school and sing Joni Mitchell songs with your mum when you have guests round to your house just seemed to add to the youngster's anguish and he seemed to me to be quite cut off from everyone else... Certainly, his mother didn't seem to understand him at all, and he couldn't build up any sort of friendship in school, or even muster any real trust in his teachers or other adults he sees regularly.
This is what makes the budding friendship between Marcus and Will so unusual; they are both completely different, from completely opposite backgrounds and of course they have a huge age gap so their interests and tastes have no similarity. Perhaps the fact that Marcus acts a lot older than his years, and seems to have matured into a fully-fledged adult before he has even reached puberty provides the perfect balance for Will's immature outlook on life and the sort of 'throwaway, no-strings' culture he has become accustomed to in his twenties and thirties.... It certainly seems at times to the reader, that Marcus and Will have swapped places and it becomes easy to accept that opposites really do attract.
I never found that I was bored with the book or waiting for the story to 'quicken its pace' as such. I felt that the story moved along nicely on its own without dragging on or making my interest waver... so much so, that I often found myself guessing what was going to happen next and trying to work out which way the plot was going to turn. I was always wrong, and so I wouldn't say the book was at all predictable, which is a huge plus point for me personally.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading the book and wholeheartedly recommend it for a light, enjoyable read without any sort of 'holes' in the plot or storylines. I thought it was a light-hearted story with enjoyable characters and plenty of humorous moments thrown into the mix to keep the reader entertained throughout.
You can buy a used copy of the book from www.amazon.co.uk, with prices starting from 0.01 plus postage and packaging costs. You can also buy a new copy from around £5.
About A Boy was the third novel by Nick Hornby, well known author of 'Fever Pitch' and 'High Fidelity'. Just like those two books, this has also been turned into a successful film, starring Hugh Grant, Toni Collete and Rachel Weisz. If you are a fan of the film I highly recommend reading the book for a chance to get to know the characters in more depth and to see Hornby's original ideas, as several major plot points were adjusted for the film. If you haven't seen it yet you will probably want to after reading the book!
Our two main characters are 36 year old Will and 12 year old Marcus, both residing in Holloway, North London but leading very different lives. Will is the king of early 90's cool, he has a fast car, a swanky bachelor pad, watches the right videos, listens to the right CDs, wears the right trainers and has managed to keep himself free of any responsibilities or ties. Will doesn't even have a job, instead living off the royalties from a novelty song written by his late father.
Marcus couldn't be less like Will. A clever but oddball boy who doesn't fit in at school, he wears sensible shoes, listens to Joni Mitchell and is a target for bullies. He also has to cope with the pressure of living alone with his severely depressed mum following his parents separation and he carries the burden of worrying about her safety and wellbeing.
I don't want to give too much of the plot away for those who are new to the story so I shall keep this short and sweet! Will and Marcus end up thrown together due to an unusual set of circumstances and although they don't immediately warm to each other, they go on to form a surprisingly close and believable friendship. Will is able to provide Marcus with coping strategies for dealing with the bullies at school, and a pressure free safe haven from the struggle with his mother's depression. Marcus drags Will unwillingly out of the bubble he has created for himself and forces him to interact with a whole new group of people he would have shielded himself from previously, leaving him more emotionally vulnerable but also more fulfilled.
Both characters go through a very believable and gradual journey. The changes they go through and the developments in their personalities are so subtle and realistic that you barely notice it happening. If you were to finish the book and go back to the beginning you'd be surprised by how different the characters seem! The secondary characters, such as Marcus's mother Fiona and Will's various romantic interests are all well written too despite having much less time devoted to them. There are no one dimensional stereotypes or throwaway bit parts in this novel.
The narrative device of switching between Marcus' and Will's voice in the first person is, I feel, a very effective one. In a story that centres around the relationship between two wildly different characters its great to be able to see events from both points of view, and to understand fully what each of them is taking away and bringing to the friendship. Hornby shifts effortlessly between the two styles, and both are completely natural and believable. It seems as though he has experienced both sides of the Will/Marcus coin to some extent as he shows great care and understanding of both lives.
This book was first published in 1998, but is set in 1993/94 and as Nick Hornby generally puts a lot of popular culture references into his books, it does feel a little dated in 2010. This wasn't an issue for me, as I felt that the story was essentially timeless and could be applied to almost anytime from 1960 or so onwards. It is quite funny though to think that someone like Will would ever have been happy watching Countdown everyday and renting videos, when a modern Will would probably have sky plus and a blu ray player or two!
The novel is one of my favourites, I particularly love that it doesn't have a fairytale happy ending but is in fact a tad bittersweet. Its a reminder that there aren't actually neat endings in real life, just transitions from one phase to another and slight changes to remind us that we're getting older. I would recommend this book to pretty much anybody, as I feel the story has fairly universal appeal. If you don't like it its not too long anyway!
(edited for typos)
The Story: Will is a Bachelor, and a priveledged one at that. His Father made a popular Christmas song many years before and the 36 year old has been living off the sucess of it ever sinse. He never works or holds down stable relationships preferring instead to spend his time smoking and being a couch potato. With all the latest gadgets and an alternative taste in music, e.g Niravana, Will is cool.
Marcus, a 12 year old kid is the exact opposite. Coming from a poor and slightly hippy family with a suicidal and emotionally unbalanced mother, never having the latest labels and singing out loud at school makes him a prime target for bullies.
Will conjures up the idea of joining a single parents group for the purposes of meeting women, even inventing an ever absent child called Ned. It is through this group that Will and Marcus meet and the two characters' lives are both changed forever.
Will bestows upon Marcus his advise on becoming cool and in exchange Marcus unknowingly teaches Will how to grow up and act his age.
My Opinion: the book is beautifully written (as is most anything written by Hornby!) with good subtle comedy moments and illusions the events of the time, for example the death of Kurt Cobain.
It is far better than the film, so if you have seen it and thought it average (it is) then don't be discouraged because its really quite different.
Will is 36 and has never had to work a day in his life, floating from day to day without any real purpose apart from dinner dates and fast cars. Marcus is 12 and comes from a low-income single parent family and has had a tough time being bullied at school. In a bizarre twist of fate, their paths cross and between them they learn what life is really about.
This charming 'page-turner' is packed full of comedy, tragedy and romance which give this story all the qualities of a modern classic. Hornby has that rare talent of being able to observe life in its rawest form without removing any of the beauty of it; from a single mother's severe depression to the emotional problems of a goth teenager, these subjects and many more are tackled in such a way that you see the world differently after putting the book down.
There are many references to popular icons in the 90s such as the death of Kurt Cobain, Macaulay Culkin, "Free Willy" etc... this is a nice touch particularly for anyone in their late twenties; I found myself reminiscing about popular music and films that I had previously forgotten about from my teens.
Although the film is wonderful (Nick Hornby had quite a lot of say in how it was made), it is still nothing compared to the book. The book will give you the detail and feeling that the film can only hope to portray. At some points I found myself feeling close to tears or laughter as I went on this rollercoaster journey of emotion with these complex characters. It will leave you wanting more.
This is one of Hornbys most famous and, frankly, most inspiring and astoundingly well written piece of work.
Having watched the film repeatedly and marvelling at its use of dry humour and 'sweetness' I thought it was about time I read the book. I was not disapointed, it had the same, if not more wit and just the right amount of cosy warmth emenating from its every page.
The novel is extremely realistic as poor Marcus battles along, forever fighting to not let the influence of his suicidal mother bring him down, however, his upbringing is less than normal, no matter much he tries to be 'cool' he is simply not. He sings (with his eyes closed) he wears woolen clothes and smart shoes, as opposed to the other boys wearing trainers, he has a ridiculous haircut and he says 'I love you' to him mum at the school gates...in the dog eat dog world of school...he is not cool, in fact he is getting used to the frequent throwing of things at his head. He is THE recipe for a bully target.
That is until he meets Will. Will, the man that just can't seem to find the right woman, the man who is so stuck in his self absorbed routine that he doesnt need a woman...he doesn't even work, he lives off the royalties from his dads song...Santas Super Slay...
The two worlds collide and they both go on a journey together, Will helps Marcus to build self confidence, and Marcus helps Will to tone down his self obsessiveness (with a good old handul of hilarious incidents along the way!)
A fantasticly charming read, especially great if you need cheering up with a bit of realistic comedy.
I read the novel the first time when it was published in 2000, I've just finished reading it a second time and I'm going to read it again next week, the third perusal will take about three weeks. Even if you've heard that the book is good or if you've read it yourself and are of the same opinion, you may think that it isn't worth so much attention. Let me explain: I read it the first time because everyone did then, I decided to read it in class with my (German) A-level students of English which will take some time and so I read it again quickly to brush up my memory.
The plot: 12-year-old Marcus lives with his mother in London where they've moved after his parents split up. He' s a precocious, un-young child raised according to the principles of hippydom of twenty years ago, oblivious of current youth culture and an easy victim for the bullies in his new school.
Will Lightman (!) is a 36-year-old, forever young (=permanently pubescent), sub-zero cool single [between girlfriends] who doesn't have a job, in fact he's never worked at all because he's never had to due to a substantial heritage. He prides himself on his non-committal attitude to life, "no problem was his problem".
Marcus' and Will's paths cross, the impact they have on each other and on the people around them is what the novel is about. Why do I think that it's a good idea to read the novel with my students?
Marcus lives in a dysfunctional family. "Who doesn't?" the cynic in me feels like asking. It's not so bad in our school, we still have many intact families in our small provincial town, but I think there are enough students in my class that can relate to Marcus' situation and his problems.
Then there is the issue of bullying, maybe the discussion with my students will at last help me to get to its core as the concept of bullying because of the wrong outfit and hairstyle is alien to me, I just can't get it. I can understand bullying if someone wants to climb up the social ladder and has to fend off competitors and rivals, but why the 'wrong' clothes should lead to bullying is beyond me; when I was young in the pre-label age 'wrong' clothes didn't exist.
Will Lightman may seem a bit removed from the world of 17-year-old girls and boys, but as coolness is one of the aims they strive for nowadays, I think we'll find some points for discussion. Not having any roots, commitments, obligations, being free as a bird, only responsible to oneself, is that really desirable?
We can then have look at the construction of the novel, what are Marcus and Will like at the beginning of the novel and at the end? Where , when and why and in what way do they change? In my opinion Nick Hornby has constructed the novel masterly, it has the shape of an X, not that the two main characters change roles, that would be absurd, but they both take something from each other thus moving into the world which was formerly inhabited only by the other character. The genre About A Boy belongs to is the coming-of-age novel, here you get two stories for the price of one as not only Marcus moves on which isn't surprising considering his age but also Will.
I find Nick Hornby's style very accessible, it flows easily, one is drawn into the story at once, it has entertainment value but is also profound. An example: what makes life worth living, one of the great questions of humankind, is answered in a conversation quoting NYPD Blue and the latest Nirvana album, for me one of the highlights of the novel.
Nick Hornby's obsession with pop music is also one of his weaknesses, he connects his plots so tightly with contemporary bands and singers that their sell by date isn't far away what with the speed stars come and go nowadays. Some more years will suffice and future readers will have to google the name Kurt Cobain. Fortunately, I know that my students still know him, it would be absurd if I, their ancient teacher, had to explain the importance of a pop star to them - the more so as I'm not the least bit interested in the subject.
Last but not least the novel contains something *you* don't realise, the so-called regalia of English life. School life, Christmas festivities - many things which are only there to anchor the story in reality are normal for you and you may not even notice them while reading, but they're odd for readers with a different cultural background and therefore worth a look.
No need to tell me that the novel has been made into a film, I know it. I haven't watched it yet, I'll do it together with my students when we've finished reading.
Nick Hornby is my future husband, just incase you do not know already. The fact hes old, not all too pretty and doesn't swing my way are minor details. This man understands people. He knows how they work and he knows how to tell you how they work. That in its self deserves a medal.
I got this book for my birthday from someone who knows me all too well along with another of Mr Hornbys books. Needless to say, I was a happy bunny.
I'll start off with the only downside to the book. It's been made into a film. A rather good film I would imagine (never having watched it the whole way through I can't really say for certain) I much prefer going into a book not having a picture in my head of what the character looks like. Mainly because in films they look totally different. That and I don't particularly like seeing Hugh Grant while I'm trying to read. It gets distracting!
Despite the film blurring my 20-20 character vision, About a boy is yet another cracking read (for previous cracking reads see high fidelity, fever pitch, anything by Hornby).
Contrary to the title, the book is less about a boy and more about a group of people and how they get on with life. Sounds dull, no? Think again!
The boy in question (at least I'm assuming he's the boy in question, being the only boy who is a major part of the book) is Marcus, a very strange 11 year old. He's one of those weird kids you would always hope your kid doesn't turn out to be. Lack of friends, humour, style...anything really.
How did he get to be like this? Well! Enter his mother from stage left. Hippie, vegitarian and a depressive to boot!
Marcus wants to try his hardest to make his mother happy, for a while he thinks that a man would be able to do that. (Oh how I laughed at that suggestion) (yes, I'm a bitter man hater, sue me).
Will is a man. Will is a useless man, but a man all the same. Getting stoned, watching tele and trying to pick up women by making up a whole different life for himself are some of his more admirable attributes. On the plus side, Will knows he's a total jerk. Will is, infact, cool with that. He quite enjoys his rather uncomplicated life. That is untill he meets Marcus and his mother.
What follows is a story about how people deal with eachother. It's about growing up, changing, and facing up to responsibilities...and that's just the adults!
Hornby, as always, makes some amazing observations about life and the people in it that will apply to everyone. I guarantee there will be at least ONE random thought that you will totally and utterly agree with (or your money back. Not from me mind you) It's usually the ones that no one wants to admit to, which makes it that little bit more observant. This man knows EVERYTHING!!
The book is laced with some dark humour and plenty of healthy sarcasm (oh how I adore thee) and will keep even the most word shy reader entranced till the very end. Emotionally charged right to the end (although Hornby has a way of making you not realise you're sobbing your eyes out or in fits of laugter till he is done with you) Its a brilliant read.
Cover wise (for all those who are naughty enough to judge a book by its cover) it comes in a few different varieties. If you are a tad nuts like me, you'll want to pick a style and stick with it. Most of hornby's books are published in every variety so you can easily stick with the style you like best.
Value for money? Of course! About £6- £10 or even cheaper if you get a second hand copy.
I can certainly see myself reading this one again. I'd suggest you go do the same!
*review also on Ciao*
This is the first book I have read by Nick Hornby and only read it because it got turned into a film and I love to compare the book to the film. However I normally liked to read the book first but this time I watched the film first and thought I would enjoy the read.
Will is thirty-six and still thinks he is a young lad; he wears the right clothes and listen to the coolest music. He is single and childfree and thats the way he likes it, no responsibilities.
Marcus is twelve and a very odd boy he listens to Joni Mitchell and looks after his Mum who is dealing with some emotional and personal issues. Poor Marcus gets bullied at school because he does not wear the right clothes.
Will discovers an untapped resource to meet women through a single parents group and this is how he meets Marcus. Will can teach Marcus how to be a kid and Marcus will be teaching Will what it means to be a grown up.
The characters are written exceptional well and you can really get a feel for what they are going through and you follow their emotional Rolla coaster through the book.
The main characters are Will and Marcus but there are other characters that appear in this book to assist the Will and Marcus on their journey of self-discovery.
Nick Hornby has written each chapter from either Will or Marcuss point of view, which is not as confusing as it sounds but compliments the book very well. Each chapter shows you a different perspective from each character about the current situation of the story.
I really enjoyed this book and found it a very easy read but very addictive, I could not put it down because I always wanted to know what happened next. I found that even though I had seen the film, there is a different story going on to what the scriptwriters decided to add.
There may be thirty-six chapters but the chapters are very short and always leave you wanting more making it very difficult to put the book down.
The RRP on the back of the book is £7.99 but I paid £4.99 because there was a promotion on at the time of my purchase. You may be able to get some even better deals of ebay.
If you have seen and enjoyed the film then I recommend this book, as there are sad bits, sweet bits and serious funny bits. It will keep you entertained and at the end of each chapter you will want to read another one.
For those that have either read or since this, I cant help but laugh about that poor dead duck.
ISBN No 0-140-29345-0
Thanks for reading.
After enjoying Fever Pitch and High Fidelity, I was feeling quite smug to come across About a Boy in the local library. The strange thing is that whenever I read a Nick Hornby book I never actually realize Im doing it. One minute Im on Chapter One, the next I turning the last page. He sort of creeps up on you, I guess. I suppose the best thing hes done in my shallow female mind is cast Colin Mr. Darcy- I am undone Firth in Fever Pitch. But then again anyone who can distract me from the TV heaven of The Sopranos deserves a pint or two in my book......
It is 1993, Marcus is a twelve year old who is a misshape without any friends, Will is a thirty six year old who tries to keep up with the trends. He is free to watch Home and Away and wonder about Marks and Spencer sandwiches, until Dead Duck Day brings them into each others lives. What the buggery is Dead Duck Day? Well ,Marcus accidentally kills a duck at a picnic. A picnic for single parents that Will views as an ideal pulling scenario after discovering the concept that single mothers are an untapped resource. The cad, the bounder even makes up a false child and goes as far as to go to Mothercare for a car seat. (All is not well in Wills prepackaged and seemingly hassle free life, how can it be when he relies on Richard Whitely as a source of entertainment?)
Meanwhile, Fiona, the dippy hippy mother of Marcus, is suffering from depression. Oh yes, everyones at it these days. Hornby nevertheless, highlights this well, as Marcus is a sensitive boy who is rather in tune with things. He effect this situation has on him is quite telling to say the least. On top of the Joni Mitchell melodrama that resides in his home life, Marcus is constantly bullied at school.
As a person who was a Marcus, I thought that Nick Hornby dealt with this subject in a very thought provoking way. At the end of the book I was like Oh balls, I despise the whole teenage thing and I am sooooooo glad that Im out of it. Well out of it. But if Wills thirties are anything to go by, I shall not be resting on my laurels just yet.
As for Joni Mitchell, what exactly do you have against her Hornby?
He slags her a bit in this novel, which I thought was a bit harsh. Ok so I am the only person in the world to think that Joni Mitchell is cool. I was obviously a loser in 1993 because I didnt really care all that much when Kurt Cobain died. I was more bothered by River Phoenix. I could never get into the whole cardigan wearing Kurt thing and much preferred Dave Grohl. Why am I wittering on about Nirvana? Good question. Well for some reason Nirvana are seen like the epitome of cool. They were good like but were they ever all that cool? All the people I knew who liked them were as much of an outsider as me. Ah well. Yes. So, Marcus listens to Nevermind and makes a few unlikely friends.
This book in itself raised a few very interesting questions for me. I will not share them just yet as I want you to read this book for yourself. It may not be as sharp as High Fidelity, but it still knocks the socks off some of the guff I've read recently.
I hope that you will give this book a go; it doesnt end the way you think its going to. Trust me, Im a psychologist.
I bought this book on a whim, to be honest. I had money to spend and I wasn?t in the mood to go home empty handed. So, after ?About A Boy? by Nick Hornby had sat untouched on my bookshelf for nearly a whole year, I was put on bed rest by my GP. The circumstances were not good, I was very low, and my other half was in Italy. So I grabbed the book hoping for a bit of comedy relief to save my sanity whilst I awaited my dearests return. Here?s my take on the book. (By the way, as this was quite some time ago I obviously bought the pre-movie edition, which is always a good thing!) Will is 36 years old and apparently enjoying living off his inheritance. His father wrote a novelty Christmas song, and Will now lives off the royalties. He enjoys watching Countdown, lounging around at home all day and going out at night. He enjoys a short lived but lively relationship every now and then, and doesn?t seem to mind that he is a bit of a failure on the relationship side of things. One day, Will has a meeting with a single mum, which gives him a brilliant idea ? why not play Mr Nice Guy and woo a few lonely single mums who will at first be completely flatted by this stunning man being attracted to them, but hopefully they will discover, after a great fling, that maybe their kids just aren?t ready for their mum to see another man yet. Sounds like a dream come true for Will? Marcus is 12 years old. He lives with his single, unstable mum. They are vegetarians, listen to Joni Mitchell and live a fairly ?hippy? style life. Marcus? mum is a musical therapist and although loves her son to bits, just can?t seem to find any good in life. Marcus is considered weird. He?s not the same as the other kids at his new school. He doesn?t listen to Nirvana, doesn?t wear cool shoes or clothes, doesn?t have many friends, and oh, he uncontrollably sings ?Killing Me Softly? half way through lessons. Because of this he is teased no end at school. Will and Marcus meet. Will the thirty something, who acts like a teenager and Marcus the boy who has been forced to act like an adult don?t, unsurprisingly, immediately click. Never the less, Marcus can see some use in Will with helping him sort out his mum and make her happier. So, Marcus clings to Will like a bad odour and eventually Will, although uncomfortable, settles to the kid. I won?t spoil the story for those that want to read the book. The tale twists off into all different directions and is brilliantly done. The plot is not predictable at all, almost the opposite of what I thought would happen, happened. A few more characters are introduced to us, all playing significant parts in the tale, particularly the wonderful Ellie, Marcus? new Kurt Cobain loving ?girlfriend?. With almost every page turn I was giggling like mad, and on occasion I just had to laugh out loud. Therefore I guess this isn?t the sort of book you would want to read on the train, unless all the passengers already think you?re mad anyway! I have to say this book helped me pull through a rough patch. All I did for the whole day was read this book and I managed to actually finish it before I went to sleep. It was too good to put down. If you are worried that this book may be a bit to ?laddy? for you, then fear not. The humour is great and just as funny for women as it is for men. This has to be the best comedy read, even above all my Bill Bryson books, ever! "Jill Murphy asked me to write about one of my favourite things to help her celebrate her fourth anniversary of cancer-free living and to remind ourselves of all the nice things in the world. It takes more muscles to make a frown than a smile you know. If you'd like to join in, whether you've only just joined dooyoo, or you've been here ages, you're more than welcome. Just write about one of YOUR favourite things, make your title "A Favourite Thing: [your choice]"
and include this paragraph at the foot of your opinion. And post before Friday, 9th August."
This has got to be one of my favorite books. I actually bought it after the movie came out although i hadn't seen it,(only the trailers) also I already knew what a great author Nick Hornby was because I have also read the book "how to be good" so I thought I'd give this a go. I couldn't bare to put it down. There are a mixture of emotions and events in this book one minute you are shocked the next you are crying with laughter. The basic line of the story begins with a man joining a mothers group pretending to have a kid thinking its an easy way to pull the women. He ends up going out on a picnic with one of the women and some children shes looking after one geeky kid tends to latch on to the man and then they get involved with each others lives. Nick hornby has done it again and has produced an exeptionally good book
Nick's hero wants a pat on the back for doing what plenty of women do every day of their lives. But becuase this story is about a BOY, we all go weak at the knees. "Innit luvvly - a real new man, he is." I must admit I was looking forward to it. My mum, who knows a good read when she sees it, told me that this was a terrific book - that she had never read anything like it before. Great, I thought as I settled down, to enjoy something special. It didn't take long to realise that she had fallen for the heart-rending sob story which essentially boils down to : it's bloody hard bringing up kids alone. I do not have children, but I have friends who do. Some of them even bring them up alone (admittedly they are all women). I am, however, a secondary school teacher in London, so know a bit of what kids can be like so I am not being unsympathetic about the situation. I just feel that if I were one of the many single mums in Britain who heard all the praise for this book, I would feel a little aggrieved. There is, after all, nothing particularly worthy about the main character, as his initila intentions showed. On the plus side, I think Hornby had strong child characters and evoked a modern, though soul-less, setting with some success - we must remember that he is not, after all, to blame for the state of the society in which we live! But goodness me - can we not ignore the slush of sentiments about a man bravely struggling on in a role generally reserved for the opposite sex, and see the book for what it is: an average piece of general ficition using formulaic and hackneyed devices of plot and character development to help it limp through to the end. Come on, Nick! You could do a lot better.
Until a couple of years ago, I almost always read books written by women. I don’t think this was a conscious decision – although I did hate Charles Dickens and loved Jane Austen in those heady days of A-level English Lit. But somehow I ended up going through a Deborah Moggach phase and a Mary Wesley phase and a Catherine Cookson phase – and then I began drinking in the long list of female authors in the same way as I consume apparently endless cups of tea every day. In the same way as I would refuse coffee except for the occasional empty vending machine trauma, I knew male authors were around, but they were a last resort and one I didn’t have to venture into very often. Then I got into Terry Pratchett and the door was open a chink. Not only was he male, he was a blinking good author to boot. Then Ben Elton came along and although he’s nowhere near my favourite author, I have enjoyed brief forays into his world of infertility and reality TV. I suppose it was only inevitable that another man would sneak in somewhere. It’s all Hugh Grant’s fault – and Ophelia (That’s ‘Offy’ Ophelia, not Emily ‘Ophelia’). You see, I rather fancy Hugh so went to see About A Boy at the cinema, which was excellent. Ophelia had just finished reading the book version by Nick Hornby and offered to pass it on to me to read. How could I refuse a free book and one highly recommended by a good friend? When the book arrived, I was rather taken by the front cover – an interesting mix of matte and gloss, rather arty looking in an understated kind of way. The word ‘boy’ is written in a kind of newspaper cut-out way and the ‘O’ is definitely from a Rolo packet, but I can’t place the ‘B’ and the ‘Y’ rather irritatingly. (Help!) But as you know, you should never judge a book by its fonts. Would the content be anything wort
hwhile inside or did Hugh Grant turn a mediocre novel into a better than average film? I was surprised how easy it was to get into. For a book that has more levels than your average department store, it is never a hard book to workout; you don’t have to repeatedly read paragraphs, brow furrowing in concentration until you get the message. It has quite short chapters, is easy to read but deep in meaning. The idea of writing a book like this seems a strange one at first. A grown-up single man in his thirties ends up all matey with a twelve-year-old social outcast of a lad. The boy (Marcus) goes round to the man’s (Will) house a lot, even though they’re not related. You see what I mean, I’m sure. But of course, it isn’t like that. It’s never seedy. You never feel uncomfortable, it ends up being the most natural thing in the world. Hornby creates the characters so well that when the boy’s mother suggests the ‘pervert’ scenario to the man, you are just as outraged as he is! As I have seen the film, it was only natural that Hugh Grant, Nicholas Hoult, Toni Collette and Rachel Weisz would star throughout the novel. It was Hugh’s sexy accent, Toni’s strange clothing apparel and Rachel’s dreamy brown eyes that the words produced in my head. When Marcus had glasses in the book, they disappeared and became Nicholas’ strange eyes and basin bowl haircut instead. Whether this can be perceived as a success of the film or failure of the book, I don’t know. I don’t care either. It didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the book, it enhanced it. I didn’t need to discover what the characters looked like, I knew. The story introduces Will and Marcus independently. Will is a man of leisure. In fact, that’s the nearest he comes to having a line of work. Living off the royalties from a naff Christmas song written by his Dad, he ha
s the means to do pretty much anything he wants. This means seeing each day as being comprised of separate half-hour units which he fills with life-enhancing events – getting his hair cut, listening to Nirvana and watching Countdown. Marcus is a screwed-up little boy. Raised by a depressive mother, he doesn’t know whether his Mum will be ecstatically happy or literally crying into her cereal. He has recently moved to London and hates school, where his little idiosyncrasies stand out more than a nice day in a British Summer. Will doesn’t seem to want, need or miss anything. It is only by meeting Marcus that he realises how little substance he really had before. In the same way, Marcus learns about himself too and realises he has the strength and depth he thought had eluded him. Their two lives are worlds apart and it seems unimaginable that they would ever meet. The story is very clever in the events that unfold, as it seems only natural that they meet, never convoluted. In real life too, you end up at a destination only through a unique set of twists, turns and dead-ends. The book is often funny, but usually a wry grin, not a great belly laugh. It is very clever though. It makes you think, without those flashing lights you get in some classics that seem to say ‘Clever bit coming up, concentrate!’ No, this is more like a wonderfully constructed documentary that you lose yourself in, only to realise at the end of it that you actually learnt rather a lot too. If the education system could bottle this, school would be much more fun. This is an easy book to start reading and a hard one to stop – which surely must be the best kind of books. The plot is full of clever little bits that you need to read for yourself, so I won’t give them away now. You know the basic idea, I’m recommending the book to you –what have you got to lose? For those that have seen
the film, the book is better in most respects. There are obviously omissions made – you wouldn’t expect every scene to be in the film version – but strangely, there are also a couple of added scenes in the movie that aren’t in the book. Most noticeably, that embarrassing concert scene isn’t there - but there’s a whole bit about a train journey to Cambridge with Ellie which I can’t remember from the film. Anyway, see the film, read the book. I enjoyed them both. I’ve got a hunch this won’t be the last Nick Hornby book I read either – Ophelia has already offered to let me have High Fidelity. Yes, please, Ophelia ;)
I read this book in class with the rest of my English set. When the teacher chucked my copy to me I was happy - it was better than Shakespeare, which we had just finished. I knew people who had read it and spoke of it very highly. The story is about Will and Marcus, and takes a while to get used to because they alternate by chapter, from one to the other. Marcus is being picked on at school. He does not have any mates, and it is starting to get him into trouble, especially when he meets Elly, the teenage greebo, who starts to lead him down a different line - where he starts to make a couple of friends, and socialises a bit more. Will, on the other hand,b is a slob. He is demotivated, doesn't know what he wants, and doesn't have to work because of the funds pouring in fom his Dad's chart topping single. He is bored, and watches day-time TV all day - untill he comes across Marcus, who pesters him to help him improve the state of his depressed mother. Somehow, the two get deeply intwined, bringing the other characters with them. The story goes on, showing how everyone copes with the complex situation that has arissen from next to nothing. It - put briefly - is a beautifull book. The whole point of it is to put forward the point that many of the old are not mature enough, and the young are too machure, like the charactures Will, and Marcus in the book. As the story progresses, you witness how the two transform to be more average, the younger less mature, to play and laugh like a regular kid, and the older, Will, to grow up and act his age. The funny, witty style in which it is written will have you gripped to the book, and luckily, its not one of those books where it is really boring at the start and you have to 'persevere'!