When I pick up a book that has been sitting on the shelf waiting to be read and skim through the comments inside the dust jacket, I am slightly daunted to read that it is recommended as ‘chaps’ literature’ or ‘male identity’ writing. However, Tony Parsons’ Man and Boy received ‘Book of the Year’ in the British Book Awards. Worth persevering?
Well worth it! You don’t have to be a male reader to appreciate the sensitive portrayal of a man who destroys his marriage with the love of his life in one stupid night with a stranger. We follow Harry from the birth of Pat, his beautiful boy, to the eve of Pat’s fifth birthday when he destroys his marriage to Gina. Pat is the ‘boy’, but Harry is also the ‘boy‘ in his own relationship with his father.
Harry’s struggles learning to cope with the raising of a four-year old son echo Parsons’ own experiences when his marriage with Julie Burchill broke down, leaving him caring for their son Bobby. His account of hair-washing will ring true to any mother (or father!)
An entire cast of characters peoples the novel. Marty and Eamonn, media stars with clay feet, Cyd and her daughter Peggy, Harry’s second chance, Gina’s aged hippie father and his hangers on, and Harry’s genuine and very ordinary parents. This is dizzy writing that moves from laugh-aloud jokes to deeply moving moments and concludes with a funeral and a wedding – and a message that the protagonist finally understands.