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I'll name that tune in five...
Man and Boy - Tony Parsons
Member Name: nikkisly
Man and Boy - Tony Parsons
Date: 08/09/01, updated on 08/09/01 (170 review reads)
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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