About a Boy by Nick Hornby. Riverhead Books, 1999.
About a Boy is Nick Hornby’s second novel and follows the development of Will, a narcissistic man with few worries, and Marcus, a young boy with the weight of the world on his shoulders. There is a common thread connecting About a Boy to Hornby’s previous novel, High Fidelity. Both feature a male main character who is a bit of a wanker, to use an English term, but both Will and Rob grow up a bit over the course of the novels.
In About a Boy, Hornby alternates between Will and Marcus from chapter to chapter. Sometimes their paths overlap and sometimes the story is exclusively the realm of a single character. The novel generally follows the same course you may remember from the film. Will decides to pretend to have a son in order to meet eligible women at a support group for single parents. His budding relationship with one such single mother introduces him to Marcus. Along the way, Marcus finds him out and uses this knowledge to insuate himself into Will’s life.
Marcus has it rough. His mom is a mess. The bullies are after him at school. He has no friends. Will eventually tries to help him fit in and becomes Marcus’ only friend. Will and Marcus end up finding love interests that help them grow up. The novel doesn’t have the same lovey-dovey happy ending of the movie though. About a Boy was originally published in 1998 and is set in 1993-1994. The definitive moment of the book occurs on that fateful day in 1994 when Kurt Cobain died. The movie came out in 2002. Perhaps the Kurt Cobain references of the book seemed too dated for the film. Or maybe they just wanted that lovey-dovey ending. Either way, the ending of the novel was not retained in the film. I don’t think one is better than the other, but it does make for an interesting comparison.
About a Boy is equally as funny and insightful as High Fidelity. There is a somewhat feel good element to Hornby’s work, but it doesn’t feel prescriptive or corny. It’s just fun to watch his characters grow and become better people. I highly recommend you pick up About a Boy.
Reading challenge : Nick Hornby
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About a Boy