About a Boy- Nick Hornby

This book was read as part of the Take a Chance Challenge

Synopsis (from Amazon)

Will Lightman is a Peter Pan for the 1990s. At 36, the terminally hip North Londoner is unmarried, hyper-concerned with his coolness quotient, and blithely living off the royalties of his father’s novelty song. Will sees himself as entirely lacking in hidden depths–and he’s proud of it! The only trouble is, his friends are succumbing to responsibilities and children, and he’s increasingly left out in the cold. How can someone brilliantly equipped for meaningless relationships ensure that he’ll continue to meet beautiful Julie Christie-like women and ensure that they’ll throw him over before things get too profound? A brief encounter with a single mother sets Will off on his new career, that of “serial nice guy”. As far as he’s concerned–and remember, concern isn’t his strong suit–he’s the perfect catch for the young mother on the go. After an interlude of sexual bliss, she’ll realize that her child isn’t ready for a man in their life and Will can ride off into the Highgate sunset, where more damsels apparently await. The only catch is that the best way to meet these women is at single-parent get-togethers. In one of Nick Hornby’s many hilarious (and embarrassing) scenes, Will falls into some serious misrepresentation at SPAT (“Single Parents–Alone Together”), passing himself off as a bereft single dad: “There was, he thought, an emotional truth here somewhere, and he could see now that his role-playing had a previously unsuspected artistic element to it. He was acting, yes, but in the noblest, most profound sense of the word.”

What interferes with Will’s career arc, of course, is reality–in the shape of a 12-year-old boy who is in many ways his polar opposite. For Marcus, cool isn’t even a possibility, let alone an issue. For starters, he’s a victim at his new school. Things at home are pretty awful, too, since his musical therapist mother seems increasingly in need of therapy herself. All Marcus can do is cobble together information with a mixture of incomprehension, innocence, self-blame, and unfettered clear sight. As fans of Fever Pitch and High Fidelity already know, Hornby’s insight into laddishness magically combines the serious and the hilarious. About a Boy continues his singular examination of masculine wish-fulfilment and fear. This time, though, the author lets women and children onto the playing field, forcing his feckless hero to leap over an entirely new–and entirely welcome–set of emotional hurdles


I’ve been watching the film About a Boy for years (being somewhat of a Hugh Grant fan it was never an option not to watch it, I’ve even seen the terrible Did you Hear About the Morgans?) and enjoyed it especially as it makes somewhat of a deviation from Hugh Grant’s normal characters. So I had been planning to read About a Boy for quite a long time, it just took me this long to get round to it, and I still may not have was it not for the Take a Chance Challenge prompting me. It’s the only the third book by Nick Hornby I’ve read. The first was The Complete Polysylabbic Spree which probably doesn’t really could as it is non-fiction but the other, High Fidelity, I liked enough to want to read more by him, and About a Boy is one of his more popular novels. I did find it a little difficult not to compare to the film, simply because I know the film well. I was glad to find that seeing the film didn’t spoil the book for me, which is something that often happens when I see the film first. I did find myself picturing Nicholas Hoult when I read about Marcus, but possibly that was just good casting as I didn’t picture Hugh Grant when I read about Will, I terms of changes in plot it pretty much balanced it out, the end of the film is a bit stupid with Hugh Grant saving the day, I much prefer how it was written (highlight for spoiler) with Marcus really coming into his own. I was a little disappointed with the way Marcus met Ellie as it’s one of my favourite points of the film, but that isn’t much of a big deal really. As with High Fidelity I found About a Boy really amusing, I do think it could have been more touching, but I did care about Marcus at least, even if I wasn’t bothered about the other characters. I thought Will was a bit of an idiot but I still grew to like him, or at least the new him. I did prefer High Fidelity, but About a Boy is well worth a read too



Filed under Contempory, Fiction review

8 responses to “About a Boy- Nick Hornby

  1. Pingback: The Take a Chance Challenge 2011 | Lucybird's Book Blog

  2. Great review! I also liked this book but preferred High Fidelity. Both movies are highly enjoyable. Good for you for taking a chance 🙂


  3. Lucybird

    Thanks 🙂 I like the High Fidelity film too, although I’m not sure I’ve ever seen the whole thing in one go, I always seem to miss the beginning or the end, I think I’ve seen the whole thing overall though


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