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About a Boy by Nick Hornby
You probably all know this one either from the book or the film but this review is of the book. My partner watched the film one night and I thought I would read the book first because I had wanted to do this but hadn’t got round to it. So I bought the book on ebay, very reasonably and there are loads of copies on there at the moment I assume because of the recent film. I have to say it’s a really good place to get them too because mine only set me back 1.50 and when it came the spine hadn’t been bent to open it. It was brand new and unread. Anyway less of ebay more of the book itself.
These are just the main characters:
Will: A shallow man who knows all about what’s cool and wastes his days watching Countdown and Home and Away. He is unemployed and much to his displeasure lives off the royalties of a very uncool novelty Christmas song his Father wrote.
Marcus: He is described in the book as the oldest twelve year old alive. Marcus is heavily influenced by his hippy mother and doesn’t dress or behave like kids his age. His favorites include Joni Mitchell and Mozart. The breakup of his parents and then the depression of his mother have made him grow up faster.
Fiona: Marcus’ depressed hippy Mother. She wears hairy jumpers and buys Marcus sheet music for Christmas. Enough said.
Ellie: Becomes Marcus only friend apart from Will. Ellie has a reputation around school for being rebellious and Marcus wins her respect and protection in some instances from younger bullies, he does this by striking up a conversation with her about Kurt Cobain when most of the kids were too scared to talk to her. Marcus soon develops a crush on her.
Rachel: The woman who eventually manages to invoke deeper feelings from Will than he knew he was capable of. She has a son called Ali.
Clive: Marcus’ Father who lives away in Cambridge with his new wife Lindsay. He is a pot smoker and strangely enough falls off a window ledge and injures himself during a DIY job!
The plot begins with Will going out with a single mother which to his surprise has hidden benefits despite his dislike of children. Will finds that a single mothers main priority is their child so it’s the perfect no commitment situation. After trouble finding these single mums he decides to join S.P.A.T. Single Parents Alone Together. The plan being that he’ll make up a two year old son called Ned and get to mingle with the ladies. It’s very funny watching him go to such lengths to get someone in bed. Will even goes to Mothercare buys a brand new car seat to put in his car and crushes a bag of crisps over it for added authenticity! Will weaves a web of deception which can only lead to his inevitable exposure as a liar.
During a picnic for the children and parents of SPAT he meets Marcus. Marcus had been sent to the picnic with his mum’s friend to get him away from his Mothers constant crying. While at the picnic Marcus rather comically inadvertently kills a duck while throwing bread for the birds. This is a really funny moment especially when the parkeeper come over and they all insist it must have been ill already and died so they were throwing bread at it to sink the body because it was upsetting the baby! (Said baby was asleep at the time.)
On the same day, referred to as “The Dead Duck Day” in the book they return to find Marcus’s mother had taken an overdose. It is very shocking after reading about something so funny to then go to a scene where a young boy finds his mother covered in sick and unconscious, but then these things don’t come with a warning in life either.
Will watch the whole dramatic happenings as though he is watching them on television because of his not knowing any of them personally with a strange excitement. After “The dead duck day” Will starts to get involved with Marcus, at first selfishly and then gradually they begin to spend more and more time together.
Will gives Marcus advice on “being a kid” for example he takes him to buy some trendy trainers which ended up being pinched by bullies. Will learns something about himself too. Will begins to have real relationships and connections with people instead of gaining a safe, exciting, dramatic view from outside. When he finds himself sent to the police station with Fiona and Ellie’s Mum to pick up Marcus it’s a kind of epiphany for him.
“Will couldn’t recall ever having been caught up in this sort of messy, sprawling, chaotic web before it was almost as if he had been given a glimpse of what it was like to be human. It wasn’t too bad, really; he wouldn’t even mind being human on a full-time basis.”
After Fiona’s suicide attempt Marcus sadly realizes that two isn’t a “safe” number. Marcus finds that all these connections and events that brought them all together mean that he is not on his own anymore to deal with his Mothers depression.
This book is a funny touching story. I read it in two days with many interruptions from the kids. It touches on Marcus’ problems at school including bullying and teasing and his Mothers’ depression and attempted suicide. There is also the suicide of Kurt Cobain and the way it affected Ellie and reminded Marcus of his Mothers problems. It is a real mix of lighter moments and really dark serious situations which add to the realism of the story. The characters show how very different people can come together and affect each others lives in the end in a very positive way. Will realizes he has to grow up and Marcus becomes a real teenager who can finally say to his Mother “I bloody hate Joni Mitchell!”
My personal feelings about the book.
I decided to add a little about my feelings of the book, I apprechiate that when I was writing about it earlier I may have over done the plot in an effort to explain the complex relationships of the people in the story. I did this to illustrate why I had become so fond of the characters but can see how it might have been seen as too much information! I apprechiate all comments and suggestions.
I really liked the characters in this book, due to the way the book is written I felt that the characters were particularly beleiveable. I especially liked Marcus. Having been a litttle bit "wierd" myself at school I found it easy to identlfy with his character. The teasing was something that I could also identify with, the book really gave you a sense of what Marcus was going through. I found this a very heart-warming book as a whole real and full of complications but also a story which made me think of the connections I make with people everyday. This book was effortless to read and really took me away into the lives of the characters, I enjoyed every page.
You still give away quite a lot of important parts; might want to tone the plot description down a tiny bit more. Cool that you mentioned the Cobain aspect, as it might encourage a few more people to read it. I'm not keen on the film, but the book's great.
p.s. I've read it quite a few times but have never noticed it mention Marcus being into Mozart, although it says that on the blurb - out of curiosity, whereabouts does it get said? Cheers.
kepler3001 11.02.2004 16:21
I've seen the film, which I was forced to watch but actually ended up enjoying. I haven't read the book and I probably won't but a great review nonetheless. Wayne. : )
phil2001 01.02.2004 00:21
Not a bad film for a chick flick, and yes I did go to watch it with the other half. Good review by the way.