Man and Boy – Book Review

I picked up this book because of its cover, which caught my eyes, while I was browsing at Borders on a lonely Saturday afternoon. To my delight, the book did not disappoint me at all. Despite the fact that the story line is predictable, I found myself glued to it until the last page.

Man and Boy is a story of Harry Silver, his separation from his wife and his struggle as a single parent to raise his son.

The author, 52-year old Tony Parsons, a columnist with Daily Mirror, has written three novels  before coming up with his international bestseller.

The book is set in London in the late 90s. Thirty-year-old Harry is completely devoid of emotion and practical sense and thinks that the world is his oyster. He seems to have it all – a successful career as TV producer, a beautiful wife, Gina, and an adorable four-year-old son, Pat. And to top it all, he drives around town in a sporty red MGF – a car which most men dream of owning. (I am digressing a little here to know – why do men need fancy cars to boost their image…err ego?)

However, Harry screwed things up when he had a one-night stand with a colleague. His wife walks out on him, leaving Harry to look after their young son after she discovered his little rendezvous. Gina, who has a penchant for everything Japanese, then heads for the land of the rising sun to pursue an unfulfilled dream of becoming a foreign correspondent.

Suddenly, Harry’s world begins to crumble. He finds himself an unemployed single father and in a financial mess with the prospect of a divorce looming before him. He failed to win Gina back despite apologising to her. On the other hand, his parents could not understand why he and Gina decide to go their separate ways. After all, didn’t they – the devoted parents – raise him in a stable environment?

Harry begins to pick up the pieces from his failed marriage once he stops wallowing in self-pity; most importantly, to be a good parent to his son. He strives to provide a decent living environment for Pat in his bid to fight for permenant custody of him. He takes up a job that gives him flexibility in order not to compromise his son’s interest. He does everything a mother is supposed to do for her child – from cooking for his son to giving him a bath. Pat initially resists him and throws tantrums because he misses him mother very much. In short, Harry realises that raising a child is a daunting task.

When Gina returns from Japan with a new man in tow, Harry threatens to fight for sole custody of Pat. However, he soon realises that loving someone is about setting her free. Loving someone is about letting go. He eventually agrees to a shared custody of their son.

The subplot of this novel comes in a form of Cyd, a divorcee. This American single mother eventually finds her way to Harry’s broken heart. The book offers its suspense elements when Pat is involved in an unfortunate accident at the park. The way the author describes Harry’s anxiety and his state of mind then will move you to tears. Well, I cried when I read this particular scene. 

In my opinion, Man & Boy is a predictable story – a story which most of us probably have heard or read. In fact, the story reminds me of ‘Kramer versus Kramer’. However, Parsons retains his originality with his wit and his writing heartfelt in its simplicity. Parsons takes his readers on an emotional roller coaster ride from the first page right until the last. He skillfully narrates the trials and tribulations of a single father in a demanding modern world.

Apart from the coincidence of Pat and Peggy (Cyd’s daughter) attending the same school, which seems a bit far-fetched to me, the storyline is carefully developed to retain the reader’s interest throughout the book. Overall, it is very well written, funny, and heart-breakingly moving.

This is a must-read to those who are suffering from premature mid-life crisis. It’s good for women too because the book guides you right to a man’s heart. Parsons gives you a reality jolt and a subtle reminder not to take anything for granted. Highly recommended.

Title: Man & Boy

Author: Tony Parsons

Price: RM35.90 (Borders)

Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Ltd (344 Pages)

ISBN: 9780006512134

Genre: Fiction

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16 thoughts on “Man and Boy – Book Review

  1. MIsh,

    I think I’ve read this one (apart from my regular cycle of M&B).
    Not bad, tapi takde laa sampai boleh buat aku nangis!
    Ko memang cengeng & cembeng! : )

    Well, at least I am not completely devoid of emotion like YOU!!!

  2. Mish,
    I think I’ve read this one before (in between my regular cycle of M&B).
    Not bad, tapi takde laa sampai boleh buat aku nangis.
    Ko memang cengeng / cembeng / kememeh / jiwang karat!

    What freaking ever!!

  3. Hello Elviza – Thanks for your wonderful email and thanks for your kind words. I always have time for people who enjoy reading and writing. Your reviews are good. You should polish them up, put in more opinions and make them more concise and send them to the The Star. The Star is always on the lookout for book reviews of around 800 words. However, they want new contemporary books. So, you will have to check with them with regard to what books they want reviewed. And yes – I enjoy reading your blog. All the best – Eric Forbes

    Dearest Eric,

    Its an honour. Thank you very much

  4. I got this book tau…tapi tak sempat nak baca, dah berkurun lama beli.

    Bacalah…nanti kena makan ulat lah buku tuh…hahahaha!

  5. I should probably read the book but based on your review, my initial response for the guy is, “padan muka!” However, I know that its a response from a naivette and life is not as simple as black and white or man versus woman. Afterall, man rarely have an affair with another man. Its a lesson to be learnt when 30-40 minutes of indiscretion could really alter your life and the people around you. It was scary yet exciting. Is temporary insanity a good defense?

    Dear Sofiairdina,

    No dearest, I dont think temporary insanity is a good defense in family court. Life’s like that huh?

  6. elviza,
    would you believe i am familiar with parsons, in the sense of who he is, his profession but I have never read any of his books.
    however i am partial to journalists-turned authors because I find their style simple, unpretentious and sometimes, earthy.
    so, i may just have a browse-through of the book before deciding to take it home. the story itself is not original except for the fact that his wife wham-bammed and ciao-ed out of his and their son’s life. Don’t know if women would do that. Maybe she was utterly pissed with him. Ok ok… it’s just a story.

    anway, sofiairdina, most men say it’s a 15-minute of indiscretion. that’s, er, how short their lust-in-the-brain and brain-in-their-balls take, before they realise that, hell, it was all a mistake!

    Kak Ena,

    I dont think many women do that too. Women dont just pack, call a taxi, head to the airport and leave her son behind. I know I wont do that! I ll carry him with me to the end of the world. But then again, its fictional. Take care Kakak

  7. Very precisely said by Sofiairdina and Nuraina. Brief moment of indiscretion can change the course of our life.

    But if we are remorseful and repentant like Harry, just maybe, something good may be just round the corner. I believe in second chances, otherwise life will be hopeless.

    Dear Hi&Lo,

    I believe in second chances: just like you.

  8. I wish I hv the luxury to read fictional works. The last fictional work (actually, its a biography!) was Stephen Ambrose’s “Band of Brothers”, on the way to Paris 4 June 2004. The 60th anniversary of D-Day was two days time. So when I walked to St Mere D’Eglise, Contentin Peninsular on 7 June and saw for myself the famous village were the 101st Airborne’s pathfinders of 509th Battalion landed six hours before Eisenhower’s liberation of Western Europe begin, its like living thru exactly what I read two days earlier. I am so happy to visit the 101st and 82nd Airborne Museum and the church were John Steele was stuck went he landed at St. Mere D’Eglise.

    Of course I was taken to the rest of the D-Day sites as well. I was at Berchtesgaden were Capt. Dick Winters of the Easy Company, 506th Battalion took two 88mm German guns, which is still mentioned as a compulsory syllabus of West Point.

    Now, that’s an experience!

    Thanks for the narration BD

  9. Good review Elviza. I have not been reading much lately. I hope to get back to it soon.

    Note to Biggum, if you don’t mind: It is so interesting that you got to visit all the D-Day sites. What an experience! I have yet to do that tour. Have you been to Bastogne, Belgium? That is another military historical place – The Battle of the Bulge.

    Hi, JT… be back soon. Take care…

  10. J.T.,

    Yes I did. But that was in the early 90s. And I also been to Waterloo and Verdun. Also Arnhem. I purposely went to Luxembourg to visit Patton’s tomb. I did not really spend much time then, like I did in 2004. I actually took time to go through most of the displays in those Museum in Normandy.

    I promised my good buddy whilst in Cherbourg that we’d do this again; revisit the Normandy landing sites in 2024, for the 80th Anniversary. Unfortunately, he died 28 August 2004 in a hospital in Caen, also in Normandy for antibiotic allergy complications. His remains was brought back and buried in Kg. Tunku, PJ on 1 Sept 2004.

    I am still not over his passing and tremendously weep, on his birthday, every 21 Oct.

  11. Please excuse me, Elviza… a note to Biggum:

    Hi Biggum,

    Sorry to hear about your good buddy. May he rest in peace.

    I heard about Patton’s tomb but never went there. We drove through Luxembourg to Belgium. Someday…
    Thanks for your sharing.

  12. hah!!! here u are, always leaving footprint on my blog.I traced u, hehehe…i like yr musings….mustikkk link ni.senang nak cari.

    Oh sampai jugak ko ke sini Eshah, sungguhlah Akak terharu. Jemput dtg lagi yer… nanti akak buat kuih kodok!

  13. Hi Elviza,

    I thoroughly enjoyed this book, too. Yes, his simple writing style belies some very sophisticated insight into the human (male?) mind. His portrayal of his Harry’s relationship with his father is rather poignant. BTW, Harry’s father was my avourite character in the book. But for what its worth, I think over-adoration of his son – which is central to the book – though quite understandable, is a bit overdone. After all, which parent doesn’t think that their son is the best thing since sliced read? That aside, Man and Boy is a thoroughly enjoyable read.

    Dear Mat Bangkai (I still believe your real name is a lot nicer!),

    Over adoration of a child from his/her parents are normal, so the way the writer steps into the father’s shoes and adoring the child completely is pretty imaginable. And yes, it is a charming read this book.

  14. Hello Elviza,

    Great review! You’ve provided everything we’d like to know about the book so we can decide whether we’d like to pick it up in the shops! Keep them coming. By the way, I’m going to blogroll you, if you don’t mind!

    Dear TH,

    Thank you for the postive feedback. Of course I dont mind, please do!

  15. i pun beli sebab lihat covernya semasa menunggu temujanji. saya mula baca kebetulan dengan wife saya ketika itu sedang pregnant…yeah, sekarang i ada most of the tony parsons novels..good material to read for the ‘consider young dad’ like me…

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