About a Boy
In About a Boy, a novel by Nick Hornby: Will is a young Londoner, 36 years of age, unmarried, cheeky, boastful and unemployed. He lives off the royalties from the copyright of a song his father wrote, a Christmas jingle, which had a tremendous amount of success. Fortunately the song is so popular it enables Will to live comfortably without having to work. He therefore spends his days buying new CDs, haute couture or driving his nice car through the city. A brief romantic relationship with an unmarried mother has given him a great idea: perhaps you could find an environment conducive to meeting women in support groups for parents and single mothers. And, by pretending to be a single father (he pretends having a fictitious two-year-old son) he becomes involved in a group called Parents Alone United.
When he is about to begin a relationship with a single mother named Suzie, a dramatic and unexpected event leads Will smack dab into the middle of the life of Marcus, a boy of twelve years of age who is marginalized by his classmates because they find him too weird. Marcus’ mother is called Fiona. She is an eccentric mother. A depressive, unmarried, vegetarian, fond of aromatherapy, and the music of Joni Mitchell. She is introverted and dresses and lives like a hippie. But she is also suicidal, as she has not been able to get over her recent separation.
Marcus believes he will find in Will the father that he is missing, but this does not seem to be a very good idea to his mother. However, little by little, Will starts getting used to visits that, Marcus is paying him every day and always at the same time. There’s a sense that this makes him feel a bit more grown up (something which is missing in his life), and Will actually begins to feel some affection for the boy. Will feels a need to help Marcus fit in at school, so one day they go out for a day of shopping. They start by changing the horrible shoes that Marcus has on, and Will takes him to buy some cool sneakers, hoping that will make Marcus feel better and become more integrated into the school and finally make some friends.
I admit that I was expecting the story to be basically about Will’s quest to find a woman, but it is rather more of a reflective work, albeit full of gags and entanglements about growing older, what it means to be father, and what it means to be a role model for another person. It is a book which, for various reasons, has special meaning in my life, but I recognize that first and foremost it is a great, light comedy, with a great sense of humor. The story breaks out of the typical and politically correct, and is even quite unpredictable almost all the time, perhaps that was why I found it so great.