Man and Boy
by Tony Parsons
A review by Georgie Lewis
"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 30, whatever you do, don't do any of that. It will fuck up your whole day."
And so begins the delightful Man and Boy. The man of the title is Harry, who here is reciting the above Nick Hornby-like list, having just made each of these mistakes. His one night stand is discovered almost immediately, and his wife Gina leaves him, fleeing in fury to Japan and leaving Harry in temporary custody of their four-year-old son Pat. The consequences of Harry’s actions turns his world upside down, and he is left to discover the duties involved in parenting that he had heretofore avoided — little things like thinking responsibly and learning to be less selfish. The small details like washing his son’s hair don’t come too easily either. As his mind and emotions reel at the situation he manages to get fired from his job producing a successful television program. Harry’s gradual growth includes a new romantic relationship and the expansion and deepening of an old one — his relationship with his father.
It is hard to avoid Nick Hornby comparisons. In Britain, where both these authors live, Hornby and Parsons are recognized as the leaders of the newish "lad lit" genre. Parsons has a Hornby-esque humor, self-deprecating and gentle, which is revealed in concise little quips such as "Being a man is like being chained to the village idiot." Of course, a self absorbed guy in his late twenties/early thirties learning a few life lessons from a young boy will ring a few bells for readers of Hornby’s About a Boy. I personally don’t think Man and Boy is quite as good as About a Boy, but I must also admit that About a Boy is one of my favorite books. It is heartbreaking, revealing, funny, and rings true, true, true. Perhaps I'm being overly picky, for Man and Boy really is almost as good. The characterization is generous and astute, the story shoots along at a brisk pace, and Parsons writes openly and honestly, avoiding tiresome cliches. It is a pity that there are so few other books written by men that are so accessible to both men and women, and that speak so poignantly about modern day relationships.