Book review of „About A Boy“ by Nick Hornby
Nick Hornby is one of those writers, into whose
books you get stuck, once you’ve started reading them. You can’t do
anything else until you’ve finished them. Wherever you go, you take the
book along, so you can stuck your nose into it, every free second. His stories
are, as Hugh Grant says, mostly about “male, bachelor, single London
life”. Hornby is a person with a fine sense of humour, and his books
contain a mixture of both, cynicism and hope about the people’s
“About A Boy” is about a 36-year-old
man, Will, who invents a child to get onto single mothers. He joins a single
parents group, where he meets a nice woman. They’re going on a picnic
together with Marcus, a 12-year-old boy and the son of the woman’s friend
Fiona, who’s considered weird. On the same day, Fiona tries to kill
herself. After this occurrence, Marcus turns up at Will’s nearly every day
after school. Even though Will doesn’t like Marcus in the beginning, he
helps him to get “cooler” and to improve his reputation at school.
They get used to each other after a while, Will’s feelings towards Marcus
are similar to those of a father, or even better, a friend.
Will is a typical single in his mid-thirties.
He’s living of the royalties of a famous song, his father wrote. His life
is empty, it’s all about shopping, parties, drugs, alcohol and, of course,
women. He’s very egocentric and immature and all he knows about is how to
impress other people. And that’s exactly what Marcus’s mother has
failed to teach him. She’s an individualist, who’s convinced that
you shouldn’t act against your own feelings. And that’s just what
the society doesn’t accept. So Marcus has problems at school, he
doesn’t get along with the others. He’s too mature, too old
fashioned, too shy, too weird, simply different from the others. And with this,
Will helps him. So that Marcus in the end is more or less accepted at school and
even has friends.
As I see it, the message of this book is that
living in a world of your own is the wrong thing. You need friends, people you
can trust, people you can help if they’re having a problem and who take
care of you whenever you need them. Another message might be that it’s not
necessarily the best to teach children being individualists, because on the one
hand that often doesn’t mean “be who you are” but “be
who I want you to be”. On the other hand, you should also teach them how
to adapt to the world around them, to the other people.
The book is marvellous. The reader’s
feelings switch from depressed empathy to laughter, the characters are very well
described by what they do, think or say and they are real in a way. They give
you the impression that you could meet them anytime you get out onto the street.
I’d advise anyone who asks me to read the book, and watch the film.
It’s simply amazing, great work, done by real artists!