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Man and Boy - Tony Parsons

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      22.03.2010 23:21
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      An occasional tear jerker

      The subject matter of this book means it's bound to be compared to Nick Hornby's work - single(ish) man, turning 30, makes lots of modern day mistakes but eventually finds redemption.

      For me, however, Hornby has the lighter touch. Certainly, 'Man & Boy' has fewer laughs and it also feels more self-indulgent.

      So, what's it about? Harry Silver is a respected radio turned TV producer. Approaching his 30th birthday, he has already been married 5 years to the woman he sees as his soul mate and they have a 4 year old son. In both his work and his private life, he is, by any standards, a success. But from the beginning, the reader is party to his doubts. What comes after 30? Did his wife give up too much to marry him? Does a new car say more or less about him as a man and father?

      The catalyst for the events in the novel comes early on when Harry sleeps with a work colleague. The event is not written as a climax or even a pivotal point and the ensuing marriage break up is written in a fairly dispassionate manner.

      But from the moment of his infidelity, Harry's real emotional investment is in the men of the generation above and the generation below him. He becomes a man defined by his relationship with other males; his son and his father.

      There are times when I cried as Harry finds his emotional landscape changed through looking after his young son and discovering how much he cares for his father. But the moments of true feeling sometimes get lost in a self indulgent and long winded dissection of how a man feels when his father is diagnosed with a terminal illness. In the end, I just wanted the poor dad to pass into the Great Beyond and let us get on with the story.

      I know that sounds hard-hearted and there appears to be genuine sincerity in Parson's writing about the relationship between Harry and his ailing Dad. But I got the feeling that someone - Parsons himself? His editor? - spotted a Good Thing and just couldn't let go.

      The book covers a period of about a year in which Harry works his way along the steep learning curve of looking after a young boy on the verge of school. Rather unfairly, and unrealistically, I thought, his son is an angel despite his parent's breaking up (where were the sleepless nights, the sodden sheets, the anger issues?). Harry also manages to land a perfect part-time job (well-paid, respected) that thousands of single mums would kill to be offered and a perfect part time relationship with an understanding (and gorgeous) woman.

      In that respect, I felt that Parsons himself just couldn't handle ( or worse, didn't know about) the reality of a single parent's life.

      Like Hornby's heroes, Parson's Harry Silver is deeply flawed and, at times, downright unlikeable. He is redeemed by his love for his son and for his father and, in the end by another love (but I don't want to put in a spoiler).

      'Man & Boy' is, at times moving. It does, at times, make meaningful points about choices in a man's life that validate him as a man. For me, however, it was ultimately disappointing.

      I think it says a lot about the novel and the impact it will have on you that I was several chapters in before I realised I'd read the book before.

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        21.11.2009 19:11
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        Highly recommended

        'Man and Boy' is a novel written by Tony Parsons, that was first published in 1999. It was a commercial success, and in 2001 the book was awarded the 'British Book of the Year', by the UK publishing industry trade journal: 'Publishing News'.

        The protagonist in the book 'Harry Silver' is living a life that most people would be abundantly content with. He is married to a beautiful wife, he has a secure job which he enjoys immensly and - most important to him - he has a four year old son that he adores; however, a moment of infidelity obliterates the dream world he is living in, and this book highlights his struggle to live through his new life.

        I read this book a couple of years ago and it still resonates with me, and it conveys an often cliched idea of taking nothing for granted superbly. There are a ridiculous amount of books out there that gravitate around the romance/comedy/drama genre, although this book pulls its head above the rest of the competition. It is competently written with a thrilling storyline that isn't predictable; unlike so many books of its kind.

        Overall, I would recommend this book very highly. It is an easy read, that is well compiled and put together, and it is easy to see why it was crowned as the best book of the year in 2001.

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        04.07.2009 14:24
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        No wonder it was named book of the year

        Tony Parson's book Man and Boy was published in 1999 so I am somewhat late in discovering both the book and it's author in 2009.

        I picked up the book in a charity shop one day when I had nothing on me to read, drawn to it by the fact that it had won British Book of the Year and the Irish Times review on the cover saying that it "says more about human relationships than a library of psychology manuals.........."

        It starts of as a normal story about a man's relationship with work and his family. Well written, but hardly making the book stand out from the crowd. But then as you are in the story, the tale is no longer happy families and you find yourself caring about the central character-Harry Silver. You feel that you know him well and are understanding the world thru his eyes. I say that as a woman, but felt I saw his life as a man in his world, quite clearly. Which to my mind gives an indication as to how well written it is.

        It is just a book about everyday life, loves, work, family and in the parts I found the hardest to read- death. No scary monsters or villains, no murder at the vicarage, or alien invasions- pure and simply about a period of one man's life.

        I love books, and although it is lovely just to be entertained by the words on the page- the greatest joy for me is when those words make you "feel"-this book did. It made me at times laugh, at moments feel tearful and most importantly it made me think.

        I shall be taking the book back to the charity shop next week for the next reader to be touched by this well written piece.

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          04.05.2002 04:27
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          ‘Unashamedly touching…….. funny and well-written’ said The Daily Telegraph, ‘Extremely average, and actually quite dull at times’ says Tripley. Oh dear, when people started to talk of a book being ‘better than Hornby’ I instantly decided that they were talking trash – its rare that I’m right about a book – but in my own opinion, I was this time. We open up the tale ‘Man and Boy’ seeing Harry, fast approaching his 30th birthday and still a successful producer on ‘the Marty Mann Show’ – a show he’s nurtured from Radio to TV. Harry has it all, a beautiful wife called Gina, a young child of his own, Just bought his own MGF, a great career and hardly a care in the world. That is all until he meets up with Siobhan at work and indulges in a one-night stand with her. Thinking he’s got away with it he goes into work the next morning expecting to get on with his life as normal until Siobhan asks him about the text-message she’d sent him, to the mobile he’d left with his wife, needless to say for the story to move on Gina has to leave him, and leave him she does. As this part of the Story goes on we find that Gina is fascinated with Japan and its industries so when a chance for a job working as a translator in Japan for one of the big finance companies arrives she jumps at the chance and threatens with taking Pat (their son) with her. Coming to an agreement with Harry to leave Pat with him till its possible for her to take him to Japan with her we embark on the tale of how Harry has to look after Pat whilst juggling his career. Once again we see all this change as Marty decides that Harry isn’t wanted on the show any more and replaces him with yup, you guessed it – Siobhan. However this is just a new turn in Harry’s life – in the meeting with Marty where he learns he’s fired he meets a new girl
          in his life, and it gives him the inclination to go out and a) get to know his Son a bit more, b) re-unite himself with his parents and c) look out for a new job to do (which inevitably comes as a part-time producers job on an up and coming Irish comedians new chat-show). The thing is that this isn’t a badly wrote book, its just that that what you see up there is the main bit of the story – in my eyes it just lacks substance to live up to its ‘epic tale’ tag. So then – I think you can all tell from up there that I found the story actually rather average, but what about the rest of the book? Well Tony Parsons isn’t a bad writer – in fact the writing style does keep you flicking from page to page – in fact it took me 2 days in total to finish the book. The actual style as I’ve just touched on is very good, unlike Nick Hornby, you get descriptions of everything going on in the tale – you feel like you know Cyd (Harry’s new girlfriend) and you know what everyone is like as a person even down to what they look like. Now usually I don’t like this type of tale, I like my imagination to do all the describing and the author to do as little as possible – but then that’s just my preference. But the one place the actual book lets itself down is in the story itself – I sat there waiting for the ‘emotional stuff’ to happen and you know what, I was left waiting a long time – almost every single time that I thought the story was going to pick up it seemed to slip itself back into second gear, when Harry learnt of Siobhan and Marty’s engagement I got excited as the book threatens a good story time after time, but this opportunity just petered itself out, as did many other chances. However saying that, Tony Parsons has pulled one out of the bag on me – it’s the first time that any writer has had me sat reading a book in tea
          rs – for those that have read it lets just say it’s the sad bit at the end and I could associate myself with it easily and for those that haven’t read it yet lets just say that it is one of the most moving pieces I’ve ever read. But one or two little sub-plots don’t mean that I can sit here and praise the book up too much – there’s at least 2 members I can think of right now that are probably going to hate me for saying this but I found this one distinctly average – it wasn’t that it was a bad book it just wasn’t that good either. One thing I will say though – is that although I wouldn’t recommend this as a purchase – a library borrowing for a lonely weekend and you’ve got yourself a worthy contender, and Tony, sorry mate but you ain’t no Nick Hornby. PS Yeah its short, but it was a hard one to do even this short.

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            20.04.2002 01:49
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            What an emotional rolercoaster this book is. Harry silver has a gorgeous wife called gina who had given her career up for him, together they have a beatiful son called pat. harry manages to negotiate a tricky move from the local radio station to there own tv show managing a great tv personality. A new woman starts working for the tv show and harry ends up thinking with his pants and sleeping with her. he decides afterwards that all he wants is his wife and goes back to her but she finds out after she reads a text message on harrys phone Gina leaves him, and shortly after that he gets fired from his job and hes all alone with his son. Harry has to learn how to become a real father. and becomes very close to his son. As we all know the idea of single dads not often wrote about but this story deals brilliantly with the idea. Gina misses out on some important times in pats life such as his first day in school, pat misses his mum alot and harry can see this no matter how he tries not to. Tony parsons deals with many issues in this book and its well worth the read I wont reaveal too much or i will spoil it for everyone but i guarantee that this book is absolutely brilliant Its definatley my favourite book so far this year and i do read alot of books. I would recomend this book to everyone but id also advise u to have a box of tissues with you as you will cry at least once. I would give this book a full 5 out of 5

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              03.03.2002 13:32
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              Harry Silver - the silly sod - has a one night stand and stuffs his life up ! Or does he ? Married with the best looking child in England (or so it seems, but then we all think that don't we?)we are introduced to Harry's World of perfection, beautiful wife, good job and then he blows it. Harry is introduced to us a sensitive sort of bloke, basically decent, perhaps a little selfish, but certainly a nice chap. As a series of events turns his world upside down relationships with his parents, and so - called friends are examined but the main axis for the book is Harry's relationships with his son, the beautiful Star Wars passionate, 5 year old Pat, and his own Dad, who resembles many a Grandfather.... Do you remember certain songs from your childhood? Flicking through the record collection of you parents looking at the album covers, trying to understand the artwork ? Tony Parsons does. He has Harry reminising about his childhood, a stable and happy one, Christmases with Aunts and Uncles, Bank Holidays sitting in traffic, coke and crisps in the pub garden. Harry wanted the same for his family. The book starts off as a lightweight, but it certainly takes off, although certainly not getting too heavy, but not really 'lad's fiction either. I 've read critism that the female characters aren't developed enough, I have to disagree, if anything the male friends in Harry's world are underwritten - with the exception of his Dad. But thereagain without being sexist I guess that's what blokes are like in the time of their best mates 30 something crisis. Hand's up here the last two chapters had me crying, and for a semi- lightweight read that's a little strange. But Tony Parsons has it, he has the approach, the build up the smack in the mouth and The End. Excellent, loved it, will buy more !

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                14.02.2002 16:37
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                A cautionary tale about knowing how to look after the things which should be precious but are too often taken for granted. Harry is well set up - he is married to a beautiful woman who gave up her career for him. Together they have a gorgeous child, Pat. He is going places, having succesfully negotiated the tricky move from radio to TV managing an up-and-coming maverick talent. Money has ceased to be a problem. In short things are good. Until Harry manages to screw things up. The early signs that all is not well are there when Harry feels the need to buy a shiny sports car. We then follow an all to predictable path of him using an organ other than his brain for thinking and ending up in bed with a woman other than his wife. Shortly afterwards the job also goes down the tubes and his wife picks up and leaves. With all the certainties removed from his previously ordered life, Harry is left to deal with being a single father until Gina, his wife is ready for Pat to join her. Tony Parsons takes age old themes such as love, loss, growing up and relationships and produces a work which is both critical off, and sympathetic to the vagaries of modern society with particular reference to the changing role of the nuclear family. He examines the changes in the relationships between the major characters using an elegant prose that is both witty and full of pathos. He charts the rise and fall of Harry and Gina, the change that occurs in his relationship with Pat, how Harry relates to and is related to by his parents and the forging of new relationships. The issue of being a single Dad, a concept that is still unsual enough to be worth writing about, is very well dealt with. Harry quickly realises the value of what he has lost and has to make big life decisions in order to cope with looking after a 4 year old child. Growing up is another theme running through the book at various levels. We are introduced to
                Harry's father, a hero who grew up in a different age, when men went off to war and were expected to exhibit a certain stoicism. Harry himself comes from a spoiled generation, used to immediate gratification. We follow him growing up in a relatively short space of time as he has responsibility thrust on him. 4 year old Pat is changing daily in a confusing environment. We are privileged to take part in his first day at big school and accompany him as he learns to tie his shoe laces, tell time and ride a bike. At the same time, Harry's two charges in the world of show business show that growing up is something that can be avoided. The themes of the book are woven together to create a story that is very readable and made be alternately laugh and cry. For me this is the true test. I thoroughly enjoyed the book, was able to identify certain characters within it and at times to strongly identify with them. Do not let the hype that surrounded this book put you off - it is well worth a read!

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                  02.01.2002 13:58
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                  The British Book Awards made ‘Man and Boy’ book of the year. Is this a case of finding any old obscure award nominator to give a prize, so it can be quoted on the book’s front cover? THE STORY Harry is married to Gina and they have a son, Pat. One day, Harry throws away everything with a one night stand. His world begins to crumble as his wife leaves him, he loses his job and his new MGF is vandalised . Harry’s life changes, as do his priorities. He gets a new girlfriend, Cyd. He spends more time with his parents and his son. Harry begins to realise what is really important to him. THE CHARACTERS Harry is a fairly normal bloke going through a midlife crisis. The story is seen from his viewpoint and, unfortunately, this results in other character’s attitudes not being fully developed. Even though Parsons concentrates his efforts on Harry I am afraid that his actions and reactions at times are unrealistic and not even justified by his emotions. His wife leaves him, which at the time is a catastrophe and yet he makes no real effort to ameliorate for his actions nor does he ponder why she will not give him a second chance or whether he has made a mistake. Even when his new girlfriend begins to make statements about his vision of a ‘family’ he does not challenge this assertion on either an intellectual or emotional plain. In short his portrayal is unbelieveable and two dimensional. Pat is a small boy and, as such we cannot expect a truly complex character to develop. However, having said that Parsons portrayal of Pat is more believeable than that of his father. He is sad when his mother leaves but copes. He cries when he has to go to nursery. He likes Star Wars. He is a typical young boy. Gina, Harry’s wife, gets very short shrift in the novel. Harry has a one night stand and she draws a line under their marriage. There is no consideration to f
                  orgiveness and the book from Harry’s eyes in no way explores whether their marriage is worth fighting for. She feels she has missed out on a career and leaves England to pursue this but even this decision is not explained in detail. The best outlined character is that of Harry’s father. Harry has obviously always admired his father and this is possibly why this character is explored with better depth and feeling. The relationship between the two, as a result, is far more interesting than that between Harry and any of his women or even his son. THEY ALL LIVED HAPPILY EVER AFTER The book is filled with incidents, which on reflection, are just not feasible in the real world. Artistic licence is one thing but when there is no real plausible explanation for a character’s behaviour the reader begins to lose sympathy with the novel. The novel is written in a very easy to read style, which is similar to Nick Hornby in some respects. However, it does not achieve Hornby’s insights into its characters or their lives and is severely lacking in this respect. The book is enjoyable and you will find yourself wanting to turn the page but as a ‘book of the year’ it is disappointing.

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                    14.11.2001 04:42
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                    Isn't that the truth. The title I mean. Life isn't what you see in films is it? Real life is hard, cruel, bitter and twisted. Life can also be joyous, ecstatic, meaningful and full of love. Love. Love that lasts. Can love really last for eternity? Well this is what Harry Silver is about to find out just as he hits his thirtieth birthday. What it is with men and middle age? Well thirty is hardly middle age is it, I thought fifty was nearer the mark. Why is it when some men hit thirty and all of a sudden they want to recapture their youth? Harry has what he wished for in life. A beautiful wife who gave up her dreams of going to Japan to be with him. A wonderful son, with a cheeky manner and a passion for Star wars. And a great job in the media, something which he had always loved doing. So why did he need that MGF sports car? Why did he need to throw it all away... for a one night stand? A one night stand which was a product of a disastrous night on live T. V when Marty Mann flips out at hits his interviewee, who also turns out to be a bit of a nut case himself. Silly silly man eh? Harry wasn't even going to tell his wife and who could blame him. It was a one night stand. A silly one night stand, which was meaningless. So it was a very big shock to him when he got home that his wife, Gina already knew and was packing her bags at the very moment he walked in. Tears. Hate. More tears. Heart rendering. Separation. But what about their son, Pat. Where would he go? Gina had decided to follow her dreams and head back to Japan but Harry wanted him to stay, even for a few months until she got settled. It was decided that Pat would stay while his mum got herself sorted in Japan. It was now that Harry would learn what life is all about, especially in the middle of all this mess, he loses his job. As Harry takes on his new role as a full time father, you can see him make mistakes, you can see him change, swell, become a
                    different person to what he used to be. Harry has to learn that parenting is the most hardest job in the world and his priorities shift as he realises what he has been missing from his son. Harry also learns that he is not his father. Harry's father was married to a wonderful women and his only partner. Harry from a young age was aware that he was opposite to his father and through this book, it becomes imminent that Harry has always secretly been envious of his father, his achievements in life and how strong he is. But looks can be deceptive cant they? After his wife, Gina, heads to Japan to find the self she lost in their marriage, he meets a new love, Cyd Mason, a feisty waitress from Texas. He takes a part-time job with an anxiety-ridden Irish comic and briefly hires an inept nanny with a mind-boggling method for cooking soup. Adapting to single parenthood leads Harry to reassess the wobbly relationship with his own caring father, a World War II hero. It says on the front of this book by Tony Parsons, " Book of the Year" and " I cried five times and laughed out loud four" J.Brown, Observer. Two very apt statements which will carry this book on and on in the book industry. Tony parsons has definitely surpassed himself writing such an in-depth, true to life, heart rending book about life and love. Believe me, it is very true to life. Not having been through a separation or divorce as an adult and although the book is from the view of Harry, the father. I can see this book through the child's eyes, Pat. I have seen through my own eyes as a child how hard it is for a child to understand why two people cant love each other anymore. Or just say sorry and make up like most kids do. Adults make things so much more complicated don't they? Children love people unconditionally, whole heartedly without a question asked. Adults love on conditions, terms and commitment. You know I must be behind wi
                    th the times as Man and Boy was published in 1999, then in 2001 it was published in America and its only then I have heard of Tony Parsons. You see this book has been written very close to Tony's heart. Why? Because Tony has had first hand experience of separation and divorce and when Tony Parsons was 29 years old, he was awarded custody of his four-year-old son. It wasn't until I read this on a web site, that I realised why the book is so real. Tony Parsons portrays each character with such vibrancy, with such life, you could almost see yourself within that book. A person that knew him, a neighbour, anyone who had contact with Harry, Pat, Gina you could taste the tears, hear the laughter, feel the pain and anger. But in all this mess, things might turn out for the best? I found the novel really easy to read, even though in a few parts I was actually crying. with both laughter and sadness. In fact a few nights ago when I was lying on the sofa sniggering away to myself, my husband asked me why I was laughing. Well he must of been intrigued because I finished the book last night, he has picked it up today and started reading it. Its sharp, witty and even if you have no or little imagination you can picture everything as its so detailed. Man and Boy is a great book about the intimacy which builds between father and child, in this case son. Unfortunately so many career minded men miss their opportunity with their children to have quality time with them. Is this the way forward for novels for men? I hope so because there are rumours that this brilliant book will be made into a film. I just hope they keep the sincerity of the book in the film.

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                      10.11.2001 16:58
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                      As Man and Boy opens, Harry Silver is about to turn 30. I just turned 30 myself. It was never something that bothered me until its imminent arrival ….. and then it happened. Suddenly, I feel too old to be young when viewed by the 17 year old office junior but not nearly wise enough to be perceived as anything more than a young flippertyjibbert, when viewed by 80+ year old neighbour. So, I immediately empathised with Harry circumstances. According to Harry, when preparing for your 30th birthday, you should avoid the following;  A one night stand with a colleague from work  The rash purchase of luxury items you can’t afford  Being left by your wife  Losing your job  Suddenly becoming a single parent and thus the scene is set, as Harry then proceeds to do all the above. Harry is married to Gina, they married young and have a young son called Pat. (Pat is undoubtedly my favourite character in this book. He loves to watch Star Wars, play Star Wars, talk Star Wars. Call me a sentimental old fool but he reminded me of my sister, who even today can repeat entire chunks of dialogue from these movies). Harry appears to have it all (that is the version of all that those of us who are not married and do not have children aspire to) but then a one night stand changes his life forever. Initially, I have to confess to having no sympathy with Harry for the first few chapters of the book. It seemed that as his world fell apart, the reader was expected to feel sorry for him and each time I picked up the book, a little voice in my head kept shouting, ‘he brought it on himself - he should live with the consequences’. And so he does ……. When Gina finds out she leaves him to go to Japan, to follow the dream she had before she became a wife and mother. Harry is literally left holding the baby. It is now tha
                      t the book develops, as left alone, Harry is forced take responsibility for another human being and to reflect on his own childhood. He finds himself looking to his own parents for support and wondering if he will ever be as good a parent to Pat, as they were to him. From the outset, there is no doubt that Harry is a loving father but as his relationship with Pat deepens he realises that there is no rule book, when you love a child, your responses are automatic - you are always looking for the best for that child. Harry slips into the role of father easily, his emotions when his son injuries himself whilst on his bicycle and on Pat’s first day at school, are that of any good parent. So when Gina returns to claim her son, Harry’s life is once more turned upside down, hence the comparisons to Kramer versus Kramer. I found Man and Boy to be a pleasant enough read and ordinary life is nicely observed here but it is the sort of book I would describe as bittersweet rather than laugh out loud funny. It is both poignant and touching. The themes here are love, death and family life to which everyone can relate. It didn’t make me cry, although I was close to it, as Harry’s father lay dying but there are some beautifully written passages in this book about what its like to be a father, a son and the bonds of family. My copy of this book has ‘Book of the Year’ emblazoned across the front of it and it appears that numerous praise and plaudits have been heaped upon it and that is the great thing about opinions - everyone is entitled to one. For myself however, although this is not a bad book, it is certainly not close to my book of the year. Also, the ending for me was a little too neat and tidy for a book that throughout had been so honest and realistic throughout. Needless to say, fairytales rarely do come true.

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                        28.10.2001 23:56
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                        I have just finished this book with great disappointment at having to put it down. Man and Boy is not one of those airy-fairy, everything turns out well in the end fantasies, Man and Boy is about relationships; failed ones and strong ones, things you want but can't have, disappointment, heartache and giving up things that you don't really want to give up. Man and Boy is about real life. The book basically follows Harry Silver through a sort of mid-life crisis, in which he buys a new car and cheats on his wife one night, this is when we meet Harry and we read of the things to come for him. Parson's characters are real and gritty, his book is sharp and witty, as Harry Silver learns from his many mistakes about life and love, and how he must treat it. I really admired Harry's relationship with his son Pat. While his mother runs off to Japan, Harry must learn how to be a single parent, and this he does, making his mistakes, but learning from them, and all the time loving his son in an undying, devoted way. The novel is harsh and revealing about human relationships, and a lot of us could learn from it. I laughed and I cried, the book sees right into Harry's heart and his reactions to situations sometimes make you want to just reach out and hug him. It tells us a lot about how families have changed since 50 years ago, and how people cope. Getting emotional while reading this book is not to be laughed at, Harry's love for five year old Pat is tear jerking. His bond with his father is beautiful, and you can't help getting a lump in your throat at several situations throughout this novel. I've not read many grown up novels, this is definitely one of the few, but I have learned so much about adult relationships through reading it as its so true to life, right down to the last detail. There are the hilarious situations Harry gets himself into, and also the upsetting ones which kept me reading.
                        I was totally engrossed from start to finish at Harry Silver's mid-life crisis, and I wouldn't mind reading it again.

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                          08.09.2001 22:12
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                          There's a tune running through my head at the moment and it's driving me mad. I know I've heard it before, but where and what it is, I just can't recall. It all started a couple of days ago when I bought "man and boy" (sic) by Tony Parsons. I sat down to start reading and within minutes, the notes of the elusive tune were whizzing uncontrollably round my brain. I've been humming it, whistling it and driving poor Mr nikkisly to distraction.Ah, well, let's get down to reviewing the book and maybe it'll come to me. "man and boy" is the story of a marriage that goes wrong. At first it seems like a pretty good marriage until Harry is tempted into a one night stand, thus losing the trust of his wife Gina. Next comes a lot of soul searching by Gina. You see, it appears that she is the product of a broken home and that when she married Harry, not only did she mate for life, but she also gave up her dreams of a career in Japan in order to do so. Betrayed by Harry, she goes off to 'find herself', leaving a very repentant Harry literally holding the baby. Harry's life undergoes a series of drastic changes as he is forced to adjust to being a single parent to four year old Pat. Upheaval is probably too small a word for it as he juggles work and childcare (and still manages to find time for a new relationship) whilst trying to do the best for his son. This is a story of relationships in which Harry rather than Pat forms the focal point. Parsons disects his relationships with his son, his wife,his parents, his work colleagues and even the new woman in his life and displays them under a microscope for the entertainment of the reader. The cover blurb makes much of the book's humour. Words like "hilarious" abound, but, to be honest, I didn't find it funny. I found it touching, entertaining, deep and very realistic. Parsons' dialogue is especially
                          good and his characters are well developed and believable. Yet, as well as being entertained, I also found the book somewhat predictable - I always 'knew' exactly what was going to happen several pages (even chapters) in advance of it actually happening. It's a heart warming book, somewhat old fashioned by today's standards in that it lauds marriage and the traditional nuclear family. That is not to say that the characters are traditional by any means. Gina's father is an ageing hippy with a couple of appearances on Top of the Pops to his credit, Harry's new squeeze is a feisty American single parent and his work colleagues are a James Whale/Jerry Springer type chat show host and an Irish stand up comedian. But,in contrast with Harry's staid and settled parents, anyone a little out of the ordinary would seem positively bizarre. Hey! Guess what? I've remembered the phantom tune. It's the theme music to Kramer vs Kramer, to which this book bears an uncanny resemblance. Remember the scene where the little boy refuses to eat his Salisbury steak? Well, with Pat, it's vegetables. Remember the boy falling off the climbing frame,the mad dash to the hospital and the resulting guilt trip? Pat falls off his bike into an empty swimming pool. The meetings between Dustin and Meryl in cafe's, the juggling of work committments and school runs, the guilt, the recrimminations, the mother versus father tug of war.... all rehashed in "man and boy". Some parts of the book, such as the inclusion of Harry and Gina's parents and the new partners are fresh and new but, on the whole, Kramer vs Kramer has already done it - and done it better. Glutton for punishment that I am, I have today bought a second Tony Parsons book. Read into that what you will. "man and boy" Tony Parsons - Harper Collins - ISBN 0 00 651213 5

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                            19.08.2001 20:49
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                            I’ve just discovered Tony Parsons. Don’t snigger, you who’ve known him for ages, in case you’re old enough, from the seventies, first as a music journalist who has become a cult figure on the grounds of his interviews with The Clash, Sex Pistols, Blondie, Talking Heads, later, in the eighties for his journalistic work as a reporter for GQ, Elle et al, and in the nineties as a regular guest on BBC’s Late Review. And in 1999 he published the novel ‘Man and Boy’ which was on the British bestseller list for 50 weeks! It was Book of the Year and won the British Book Awards. How could I not notice him? Well, not living in GB I don’t know everything that’s going on in your country and I obviously always looked and listened the other way when his name came up. How then did our paths cross? When I was in London the last time browsing through Blackwell’s on Charing Cross Rd. informing myself about what was on bestseller-wise in the paperback section, my eyes fell on the cover of ‘Man and Boy’. OF COURSE, Nick Hornby’s ‘About a Boy’ crossed my mind as it was meant to do, I’m absolutely sure. I had liked that book immensely so that I thought this one might be good as well. One more reader that fell for the trick! What made me buy the book in the end was not the sticker ‘signed copy’ - what is a signed copy to me when I don’t see the author signing it? I don’t feel holy shudders looking at an autograph - I’ve written my name innumerable times and nobody has ever appreciated it - shuddered because of it, more likely! (the reason for that deplorable fact might be that what I sign are school reports ;-)), so why should I appreciate someone else’s, the more so when it’s only a hieroglyph which nobody can decipher anyway? NO, it was the other sticker ‘1 pound off’! I had already spent so mu
                            ch money on books that I found that argument more convincing than anything else. The title didn’t only remind me of ’About a boy’, but also of the joke: Q: How many people are two fathers and two sons? A: Three: a man and his son and his grandson! The novel is told in the first person perspective, and ‘Man and Boy’ is really about three men, two fathers and two sons. The narrator stands in the middle of the line, he is boy (son) to his father and man (father) to his boy. What does he have to tell us? The beginning of the first chapter is also a table of contents: “Some situations to avoid when preparing for your all-important, finally I-am-fully-grown thirtieth birthday. Having a one-night stand with a colleague from work. The rash purchase of luxury items you can’t afford. Being left by your wife. Losing your job. Suddenly becoming a single parent. If you are coming up to thirty, whatever you do, don’t do any of that. It will fuck up your whole day.” The author is frank with us readers, he informs us about what he’s going to deal with on the following pages, the last sentence hints at an unhappy ending of the goings-on, the choice of words prepares us for a conversational, colloquial, maybe funny piece of literature. There’re no tricks, on the following 340 pages or so we get what he’s promised us we would. He tells his tale in a straightforward way, there’re no hidden meanings between the lines, he doesn’t play with the language, uses only very few literary devices. The enormous success the novel has had is certainly not due to its literary merits. Where then does its fascination lie? It’s the subject, the collapse of the nuclear family. Yawn! You can’t open a newspaper any more without seeing statistics about divorce rates, single parent families, the rising number
                            of fathers with children and sociological or psychological articles interpreting these facts and their impact on the individual and society in general. Have you ever had an emotional outburst, giggled, laughed out loud or wiped a tear away, while reading statistics? If so, you’re a rare specimen indeed, then your imagination is so vivid that you can see beyond the figures and create a world of them yourself, the average reader isn’t so creative, but reacts emotionally only when the facts are presented in a certain way, and that is what literature does, what words do. The author leads you to see the world with their eyes and you can follow them or object to their interpretation, in any case they make you react not only intellectually, but also emotionally. We can leave it there, taking pleasure out of being moved emotionally, but literature can do more, it can rouse us into action, make us start thinking about our own experience and maybe understand our lives better, or even decide to change things. Tony Parsons has taken one aspect of our life and by presenting it from inward - first person narrator! - succeeds in gripping our emotion. We feel with the protagonist and understand him even if we don’t approve of all his doings. The subject is very delicate and the danger of becoming kitschy is great; Parsons must be praised highly not to have fallen into the trap. Interwoven with the protagonist’s story about his wife and son is the story of his own happy childhood in a stable, traditional family. “...the men who survived...found someone to love for a lifetime. Which was better? War and perfect love? Or peace and love which came in instalments of five, six or seven years? Who was really the lucky man? My father or me?” And today families don’t only break up, but new unions are formed, so-called patchwork families, which present new problems, “These days we have relatives we haven
                            ’t even invented names for yet.” I don’t find myself in any of the constellations Parsons describes, but what he says about the children who suffer from all the experiments in the fields of sexual freedom, professional careers, thoughtlessness, or sheer stupidity, touches me deeply. Being a teacher I see the little critters, the ever growing number of ‘divorce victims’, as we call them in German, every day, how they do cope bravely with situations they don‘t understand or try to and suffer or can’t and go under. Only the other day a physician who had to vaccinate school children told me that when he looked at the children’s cards he saw that only one girl had the same name as her parents. He pointed that out to the form master who informed him that the girl was adopted! What will become of these children? Divorce is hereditary, some people say, not genetically speaking, but in the way that children learn how to cope with problems. Today they often see that instead of coping or at least trying to, grown-ups run away from them and after a while ‘give it a new try‘. There’s one character in the book who has scattered ex-wives and children all over the country, moving on towards the horizon where his dream of perfect happiness lingers... Interviewer: “Do you think we can have it all, i.e., happy homelife, satisfying, challenging and successful careers, and a healthy relationship?” Tony Parsons: “No - but we can try.” His word in God’s ear! (again a German expression) This was the second book I’ve read of the so-called chap’s or lad’s fiction, from the chick lit list I know Bridget Jones’ Diary. It’s not only 2:1 numerically for the laddies, Bridget Jones doesn’t stand a chance against the fictitious lads. Or is there one reader on this planet who has closed her diary with a deep insight
                            into something worth looking into? A woman might think, things can’t be so bad after all if lads can write such sensitive, emotional literature. The New Man has already arrived! Or has he? Tony Parsons: “I thought it was a man’s book, but I was wrong - 95% of the letters I receive are from women. Women have made it a bestseller.” Aha. So I’d like to close with an appeal: Men, read the book, women, make your men read it! P.S. I won’t go into Tony Parsons’ CV. ALL reports and interviews I’ve read stress the fact that his protagonist’s life resembles his own in striking detail - so what? I explained in my op ‘Cat in the Rain - a formalistic interpretation’ that biographical facts have nothing to do in an interpretation of literature, they are only interesting, but don’t make a piece of literature better or worse. Obviously Tony Parsons doesn’t know enough about the theory of literature himself, otherwise he couldn’t have said: “That was my aim - to write a book that was everyone’s story. But to do that you obviously have to draw on your own life.” We wouldn’t have much from Shakespeare, would we, if he had only drawn on his own life?!

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                              20.07.2001 17:38
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                              I shake my head in amazement. How can a book get to me so much. I?ll tell you how ? because it was so bloody wonderfully written. It is a superb account of the relationship between a 4 year old son and his father. A father that loves the smell of his son when he wakes up ? his hair a mess, and eyes half asleep. I suppose that having a son myself, I can relate and picture his little warm body next to mine fast asleep. It is not deep and meaningful or hard to get into, but catches your imagination and pulls at your heart strings about happy experiences. You can really imagine his son, ?Pat?. Tiny little fella thrown between the lives of his separated mother and father. It?s not all doom and gloom as the ending is a happy one ? even if a little disappointing. I would recommend this book to anyone with a heart. Just watch out for the bit where Pat goes to nursery and ends up sobbing over his finger painting. I think I was on the train when I read that bit, and nearly burst into tears. Not just a woman?s book, as it was my fiancée who passed it onto me. And yes, even the builder he is, it got to him too. Tiny sons ? bless their little cotton socks.

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                                21.06.2001 20:32
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                                Having heard rave reviews about this book, and Amazon having an irresistible 3 for £10 offer on, I decided to order it. My friend told me he cried reading this book and we have pretty similar tastes in books so I was looking forward to reading it. Out of my 3 books that Amazon sent, I chose to read ‘Man and Boy’ first. ‘Man and Boy’ is about a man, Harry, turning 30 and his stable life falling apart around him. His marriage, his job and his role as a parent is redefined. Instead of becoming a parent leading him to accept responsibility and grow up, it is the potential loss of his son Pat that forces Harry to take a look at his life and his own behaviour. Instead of having a mid-life crisis, Harry starts to falter heading up to his 30th birthday. Having not reached 30 yet it doesn’t seem scary but the people I know who are approaching 30 all seem to freak out a little. Someone needs to tell them that 30 is not old!! Harry freaks out and buys a sports car & has an affair. This is not really a spoiler as he confesses all of this in the first couple of chapters. The book centres on Harry’s struggle to become a good parent, his relationship with his own parents, and his strained relationship with Gina, the mother of his child. ‘Man and Boy’ is undoubtedly a good book but, in my opinion, not a great book. It’s an easy read, funny in parts and sad in others but it didn’t move me to fits of laughter or tears. While I empathised and sympathised with Harry, no part of this book particularly touched me. Perhaps I would have been moved more if I was a man? I would recommend ‘Man and Boy’ to a friend. It’s an enjoyable, interesting and sweet story, but it is not one of the best books I have read.

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                                Harry Silver has it all. A successful job in TV, a gorgeous wife, a lovely child. And in one moment of madness, he chucks it all away. This is the story of how he comes to terms with his life and achieves a degree of self-respect, bringing up his son alone.