Ironically, this book could have been entitled About a Boy because it is in fact about a boy. In fact, it’s about all boys and what makes them tick.
The book starts out with a retrospective rant as the narrator reflects on several of his less successful romantic involvements. This was, for me, the best part of the book. It contains some very erudite philosophy of what it means to be male and all the confusion that results.
Personally, I like men to admit how idiosyncratic we really are. This is partly because I do it so rarely. In fact we all lack honesty in this department because, let’s face it, we’re just scared people will find out how messed up we really are. There isn’t one of us that doesn’t try to appear as if we’ve got it all together, and this is for the simple reason that none of us does in actual fact. Hornby calls a spade a spade and the book is endearing for that. Unlike Fever Pitch, this is a book about stuff no man would be heard dead discussing in a pub and that’s refreshing.
Once this is over, the book sets out on a more traditional path telling the story of love lost and found. This is all a bit too predictable unless you’re a Hugh Grant fan or your favourite film is When Harry Met Sally. The theme of music is woven into the story but I found this a bit irrelevant. It could just as well have been told without this I thought.
Most interesting for me was to see Hornby touch on deeper issues about the need we have for the opposite sex. That’s refreshing in a society as mad as Britain is to equate relationships between opposite and same-sex partners. In different parts of the book he says
the bottom line, the chief attraction of the opposite sex for all of us… we need someone to save us
women… seem to need the love of a good man. I could rescue them, I could redeem them.
These ideas of saving us and rescue/redemption reflect the Biblical narrative of God’s love for the church which is in itself the model for marriage and the husband-wife relationship. John Eldredge is the guy to read if you are at all interested in more of this idea. Hornby is here picking up threads from the Great Romance that underlies the entire Bible and provides the pattern for marriage. Contrary to what many think, it is not a few hand-picked Old Testament verses which provide us with an understanding that homosexual relationships are not what God intended, it is this broad theme of the combination of differing halves.
All in all, I think Hornby had a terrific idea to start with but watered this down by moving from Notes from the Underground introspection to rom-com narrative. A shame but, what are you going to do? Read at least the first bit of it anyway.
My desert-island, all-time top five most memorable split-ups, in chronological order…
between the ages of 14 and 24 foreplay changes from being something that boys want to do and girls don’t to something that women want and men can’t be bothered with
the perfect match, if you ask me, is between a Cosmo woman and a 14-year-old boy
it had taken me six years to change from a 10 year old into a 16 year old; surely six years isn’t long enough for a transformation of that magnitude
my friends don’t seem to be friends at all but people whose phone numbers I haven’t lost
Tonight, for the first time, I can sort of see how it is done.
terrible > poor > mediocre > okay > good > very good> excellent > superb