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Man and Wife - Tony Parsons

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Author: Tony Parsons

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      04.08.2012 10:24
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      Interesting piece of fiction.

      ==Synopsis of the book:==

      Harry Silver feels he has a confused life. He recently married his second wife Cyd who already has a daughter by her first husband Peggy and they live in his flat in London. While his ex-wife Gina lives a few miles away with her husband and Harry's seven year old son Pat. Harry finds it difficult to juggle all his commitments and really wishes he could see Pat his son more than once a week for a few hours. He would love to start a family with Cyd but her catering business is doing well and she would rather pursue this career than be a mother again.


      However change is all around and Harry is very distressed to discover his ex-wife is planning to live in America and take his precious son with her. He is worried his son will forget him and their relationship will deteriote to nothing. Meanwhile while he is missing his son he goes round to his ex-wife's old house and meets a new women who is renting the house. This Japanese lady is about to make his life even more complicated but he is fascinated by her.


      ==My thoughts on the novel:==


      I thought this was an interesting and well thought out piece of fiction. This author is very good at writing about the complexity of married life, and I would compare his style of writing to someone like Nick Hornby or Mike Gayle. For me this review was thought provoking because it dealt with a number of very important issues and I was always intrigued as to how Harry would deal with the new developments affecting him.


      This is the third novel I have read from Tony Parsons. So far he has written nine fictional stories as well as three non-fiction books. He is an English writer who before he changed career to become a writer was a journalist for the NME. The novel I am reviewing was the second published in 2002. This was 11 years after his début 'man and boy' and his subsequently been added to by the third in this series 'Men and Boys' in 2010.


      For me there was a lot to admire in this novel, but at the same time there were things that concerned me about it. I think the real quality of this work is the fact the author writes about things he knows and understands for he is a divorced man with a son. So clearly he understands the problems with seeing his son and the insecurities a parent feels when they can only see him irregularly. While the relationship with an ex can and often is strained by other partners on the scene.


      I just feel the author has a real understanding about how difficult it is to maintain all these relationships which are totally different to the relationships are parents and Grand parents enjoyed. For me he really gets into the characters head to share and explain how he feels about the changing world in which he lives. And what makes the story feel so real is Harry is not a particularly model citizen, by this I mean he makes mistakes and certainly has an eye for the ladies.


      The story covers a number of important subjects. These are generally handled sensitively and you get a real feel for how this is effecting the characters within the story. At times what was happening really made me sad because it was often very bad, but at the same time good things happened and you were pleased for him. One criticism for me was while a number of series issues raised I felt they were not covered in enough detail and that if there had been less then the story would have benefited.


      I always knew I wanted to read this book after enjoying the two previous ones I tried. So I checked out the summary of the story on the back cover. It was very short really only two small paragraphs and a sentence. This told me little about the story but I was at least curious about this man confused life. The only other positive was there were a number of compliments about this book from various papers. What impressed me is when these are usually written they compliment the authors work in general but in this one it was focused on this particular story.


      The story I found very easy to get into. I liked the situation Harry found himself in basically. And because of intelligent writing I found his thoughts and emotions generally easy to understand and relate to. I say generally because not everything he did I would have done myself and some of his actions did seem a little out of character. The story had a good feel about it and I never really knew what was going to happen next and how this would effect Harry and his family.


      There where times in the story when I felt very sorry for Harry and others when I really didn't understand him. I think this in part was because the author seemed to at times abruptly drop a subject when he had dealt with it. This I found odd because generally there was plenty of detail, it was almost as if he got bored with the topic and wanted to get on to the next one. Which was disappointing as I felt it had not been completely covered.


      However I did feel as the story came towards its conclusion it became slightly predictable. As a result it was a disappointing ending for me. It was as if some of the characters personalities had miraculously altered by changing and new developments. I just felt having developed several very good threads within the story the conclusion the author selected was not quite right and for me a real let down.


      That said I was not disappointed with the book because to covered a lot of very interesting and difficult issues and handled them in general well. It was the type of story that really made me think and while it didn't often make me laugh there was humour within it as well as lots of emotional issues. And I thought the length of it was a little short and I would account for this because the way the author rapidly moved from one scene to another and I would have preferred a more seamless transition.


      ==Conclusion:==


      My overall opinion of this modern piece of fiction was it was a very enjoyable read. It certainly made me think and consider some of the difficult issues it exposed. At times I really felt for Harry the lead character given what was happening all around him, while at others he annoyed me with his selfish attitude. The story was well written although the conclusion for me was disappointing and failed to live up to my high expectations given what I had previously read.


      ==Other information:==

      Paperback version:

      Pages: 320
      Price: 5.99 new at Amazon
      Publisher: Harper
      ISBN-10: 0006514820
      ISBN-12: 978-0006514824
      Year first published: 2002


      Thank you for reading my review.


      This review is published under my user name on both Ciao and Dooyoo.


      © CPTDANIELS August 2012.

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      • More +
        25.04.2012 09:42
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        A fairly enjoyable read

        This is a review of the 2003 book "Man and wife" by Tony Parsons. I had read "My Favourite Wife" and "The Family Way" a few years ago and had enjoyed reading them but had had this book on the shelf a while. I've done my usual trick of reading book two without reading the first in the series (Man and Boy) but you can pick up what happened in the first few chapters without missing out too much.

        Cover pic
        In Man and Wife, the front cover is quite eye catching with Darth Vader and a doll in a white dress (a wedding picture?) which makes sense when you read the book. The main characters are twice married Harry Silver, his son Pat and Ex wife Gina, new wife Cyd and her daughter Peggy.

        A bit about ...
        The book explores the complicated relationship Harry has with his ex, the new wife is very patient with him but he can't help feeling that something is missing. He thinks this may be a baby in their new relationship but his wife isn't so sure with a new start up business that is going well, she has other priorities than making babies.

        Good Dad?
        Harry constantly worries about his relationship with Pat (his seven year old son) and whether he is being a good father to him. He can't seem to bond with his step daughter Peggy and dislikes her loyalty to her no good father. He is jealous of Gina's new husband Richard and their relationship and doesn't want ichard to become Pat's new dad. Harry's love for Pat is infinite, as it should be between father and child.

        Grass is greener syndrome
        It just seems that Harry is chasing the dream of true love that he can never achieve. He can't accept that what he has with Cyd is a good thing and is easily swayed to thinking about what it would be like with other women.

        Work
        Harry's job is in a real rut at the moment and he has all his eggs in one basket. At the back of his mind he worries about not being able to provide for his family and for Pat. There is a lot of freedom around his job yet he still manages to be late for important family events.

        My view
        Whilst I read the book fairly quickly I can't honestly say I enjoyed reading it. I felt that Harry was really selfish in most aspects apart from how caring he was towards his mother. He did seem to not want anyone else to be happy in their relationships though.

        Cute kids
        Pat and Peggy are both really sweet children and they seem to be a joy to parent. Pat copes with diversity and his own situation very well and never holds a grudge against his father.

        Final word
        I don't think I'd particularly recommend anyone to rush out and buy this book but if you enjoyed Man and Boy you'd probably like to read Man and Wife at some point. I have noticed this book many times in a lot of charity shops and there are currently 205 copies (including mine) available for swapping on readitswapit website.

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        • More +
          10.01.2010 22:22
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          Effortless read, affecting and thought-provoking

          Would you like to live the 'Impossible Dream'?
          Harry Silver would.

          While trying to deal with his life's many different areas - ex-wife,
          son,wife, stepdaughter, mother and career - a new girl on the scene
          unsettles him. Could this become the perfect life he craves? Could she
          be the perfect wife?

          Harry Silver is the main character in Tony Parson's very funny, very
          moving novel - Man and Wife.

          As I prepared this review,I wondered why it was called 'Man and
          Wife', not 'Husband' and Wife or Man and 'Woman', but 'Man and Wife',
          so I checked the dictionary definitions - Man means 'human being', Wife
          means 'Woman to whom a man is married', so 'Man' is the species, 'Wife
          is the label applied to a member of that species.

          Harry seems to feel the need to use labels, to put everything in easy,uncomplicated, recognisable boxes. He believes that his ex-wife is purposefully vengeful; his mother is the ideal, contented home-maker;
          his wife is perfection, juggling career, home and children without
          complaint; the girl he becomes attracted to is innocent, pure, malleable,
          willing. He sees himself as a reasonable bloke, a good father and
          husband. In his view, his childhood was picture postcard perfect,
          something that his warmhearted, but practical mother counters
          with "There's no such thing as a normal family", having just informed him
          that, when she was younger, she nearly stabbed one of her brothers
          during a row. This rather dismantles his comfortable version of her. In
          fact, all his pre-conceived ideas about the people in his life are tested to
          breaking point during the book, including the label he places on himself.

          Tony Parsons writes with refreshing truth about the male animal,
          documenting the inner conflict caused by the civilised human struggling
          against the beast within. I could see parts of myself in the central
          character and although it was occasionally not a pretty picture, it was
          honest and human.

          Some of the plotline got freakily close to my own life and many
          passages touched me deeply, as if my thoughts were being read and,
          although there were a few times when the dialogue had me wincing as
          it veered dangerously close to the dividing line between believability
          and incredulity, I was constantly being moved, effortlessly, to laughter
          and tears by some brutally direct writing.

          Overall, this is a story that grabs you from the beginning and won't
          let go until you've listened.

          The 'Impossible Dream' is a fantasy and even though perfection is
          possible, it needs dedication.

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            18.10.2004 11:55
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            As I’d read ‘Man and Boy’, it only seemed fair that I read the sequel and found out the latest exploits of our friend, Harry Silver.

            The cover of the book is pretty eye catching – completely black with a mini Darth Vader (red light sabre clutched in left hand - was DV left handed?!) and his pretty dolly bride with curly hair. I guess this is partly what drew me to it, but as I’d read a couple of his other books I thought it would be a pretty safe bet that I’d enjoy it.

            On the inside cover is a photo of Tony Parsons and a few words about him saying that he was a regular guest on BBC TV's 'Late Review' for six years. He's a columnist for The Mirror and has written for a host of other publications.

            * Plot *

            Well Harry Silver is marrying his American bride, Cyd. This is his second marriage, his first having fallen apart in 'Man and Boy', after he cheated with a female colleague. This book centres on him being a 'Sunday Dad' to his son Pat, something which Harry isn't overly happy about, especially as Cyd has a daughter, Peggy, who lives with them. Harry would ideally like Pat to live with them but he lives with Gina, Harry's ex.

            Parsons writes as Harry, and the reader is expected to sympathise and indeed agree with every little thing Harry does. For example at the beginning of the book Harry decides to be spontaneous and take Pat on a trip to France, after Pat tells him that his friend has been there. Not wanting to be outdone, old Harry whisks him off on the Eurostar and they have a fun filled day in Paris. Homeward bound there’s Eurostar trouble (really?!) and they arrive home very late, by which time Gina is absolutely frantic. A row ensues when Richard (Gina’s new husband) gets involved. Harry genuinely doesn’t see that he’s done anything wrong. Err – hello! Taking a kid to another country and not telling your ex-wife? I’m thinking that’s always going to lead to an argument!

            Another example of how annoying Harry is – after this incident Gina tells him that they are moving to New York as Richard has a new job. Harry kicks off – he’s angry at the thought of losing Pat and being so far away from him. Instead of calming down he marches into a business meeting Richard is conducting in a restaurant and punches his lights out in front of his colleagues. Hmm, so Harry’s a real mature guy then! It’s pretty hard to sympathise with this guy when he just comes across as an idiot.

            All the while Harry is telling us how he loves Cyd. Only Cyd’s a career gal. She’s got a catering business which she loves. Any guy would be happy to have her at home, she’s gorgeous, legs up to *here* and cooks too! But no, Harry starts to resent her. When Gina and her family vacate their house, Harry goes around. There he meets Kazumi, a Japanese friend of Gina’s who is house sitting.

            Warning bells started for me here. Harry isn’t exactly a ‘one woman man’ whatever he tells himself. He starts dropping by and seeing Kazumi, although she doesn’t encourage him. Why oh why are we supposed to feel sorry for this guy when he’s clearly not learned a dang thing since his last fling? (oops that rhymes).

            So Pat is now in Noo York and Harry is bored. Cyd’s working hard and even his mum is having a better time than he is, she’s learning to line dance with her male friend, Tex! Harry doesn’t like him. Harry’s dad died 2 years ago and he doesn’t like ANY man befriending his Ma. Then things turn a bit sad – his Mum tells him she has breast cancer. This bit is genuinely moving and one thing Tony P does well is describing what he feels. ‘The really bad times, the worst times of all’.

            Harry starts seeing Kazumi, Cyd knows something’s not right and moves into the spare room. Neither of them want to admit there are problems but in the end Cyd leaves, calmly (still without realising he's seeing another woman). Cyd tells him that marriage was never meant to make him feel trapped. It was supposed to ‘set him free’.

            I won’t tell you the ending but that’s the general gist of things. The characters are believeable. Harry has a wandering eye – maybe guys would have a different perspective on this book but I'm going to say I did like it, although I found Harry just tried too hard and ended up becoming most tiresome! There was nothing actually wrong with his relationships but he analyses everything to death and ends up convincing himself things could be better with someone else.

            The character has his faults but the writing is good. If you don’t like Harry then Tony Parsons must be writing about him well for you to feel that way! As a dad Harry Silver does his best with Pat and Peggy and there are some genuinely funny moments in this book as well as terribly sad ones. I guess the ending is soppy and sugary but it certainly isn’t the worst book I’ve ever read! I read it in 3 days on holiday so managed to read large chunks at a time. It's only 297 pages.

            I’ll carry on with Tony Parsons’ books. I just hope he doesn’t continue this particular story line because no doubt the next book will feature Harry Silver having yet ANOTHER fling! Yawn.

            Find out if everyone lives Harrily ever after.

            I’m going to be a bit mean with my stars because usually I’m SO nice about everything I write about! It’s 3 stars as that’s a fair, sit on the fence type of average rating!

            RRP £6.99 – it’s been around a while now and I have seen it in charity shops. Always worth a look on Amazon and Ebay too.

            Thanks for reading.

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          • Product Details

            Man and Wife is a novel about love and marriage - about why we fall in love and why we marry; about why we stay and why we go.