Book review of “Man and Boy” by Tony Parsons.
The blurb for this book on Goodreads says, “Harry Silver had it all: a beautiful wife, a wonderful son, a great job in the media. But in one night he throws it all away. Then Harry must start to learn what life and love are really all about.” So generally, I hate it when I read that a character “had it all” because we all know from this that something is going to go terribly wrong, and the book is going to be all about their struggle to recover from some tragedy that’s not really their fault. However, in this instance, we immediately see that he’s to blame for his own predicament, so I figured this one might be a little different. More importantly, I was looking for something that wouldn’t be as heavy as some of the other books I’d recently finished reading, and the blurbs on the cover did talk about this one being funny. That’s the main reason I decided to read this book. The question is, was it a good choice or not?
The short answer to that question is both yes and no, and I’ll start with the latter. First of all, while there were some amusing passages that made me smile, and one or two that got a small giggle out of me, I can’t really say that it was hilarious or even all that funny. I’d say that better adjectives for this book would be sweet, as well as lighthearted. Other blurbs on this book said it was “tear-jerking” and one person said they “cried five times.” Well, while there were some less than happy parts in this book, I didn’t cry even once, and again, better adjectives would be tender and maybe touching. What I’m saying here is that if you’re looking for a roller-coaster of emotions, you won’t find it here.
That said, there is much about this novel that is worthy of praise. To begin with, Parsons writes Harry Silver, the book’s protagonist, as a very sincere young man who makes one very stupid mistake that changes his whole life. Despite his indiscretion, we grow to really care about Harry, particularly since he makes such efforts to become a better person, as well as a better father to his young son. Mind you, women reading this book will be a touch annoyed that Harry doesn’t seem to get why his wife felt that his one-night stand was a deal breaker, or how quickly he seems to find another love interest. Even so, we like Harry, and we like how much he tries, and having a sympathetic protagonist is very important. Parsons also gives us a truly believable cast of characters that we can either fall in love with or dislike, but in most cases, it is the former, which also helps the novel.
Furthermore, Parsons really has a lovely writing style. What we get here is something that feels very easy-going, very breezy and light, even when things aren’t going all that well for Harry. Parsons prose is also just carefully descriptive enough to paint pictures of both the places in Harry’s life, as well as the people he encounters along the way, without the narrative feeling stodgy or poetic. Where Parsons really shines, however, is in his dialog. Here we can listen to each character separately, and know almost immediately who is speaking. The talent that takes to make each character’s voice sound so distinctive is notably praiseworthy, and ultimately admirable.
All told, Parsons’s sympathetic and believable characters, together with his clear, natural prose and sparking dialog, make for a very good read indeed. The question then is, does it matter that it isn’t highly emotional; should we care that we won’t have tears running down our faces with either laughter or in sadness? To tell the truth, if you ask me, no it doesn’t. This is a good book, and although it is nothing groundbreaking or spectacular, it is just the type of book that you might need after you’ve read something that wears you out emotionally. For that, I think it deserves a slightly better than average three and a half stars out of five. (By the way, this was the first in a series of three books.)