Review: About A Boy by Nick Hornby

Nick Hornby       978-1573220873                Riverhead Books  320 Pages; First Printing: May 1998

Nick Hornby’s novel, About A Boy, has it all yet is missing so much; and that might be its strongest point. The novel tackles a multi-layered problem with the barest of essentials. It is void of much imagery, dense prose, lofty character ambitions and more. The narration seesaws between the life of a twelve year-old boy and that of a man committed to a bachelorhood void of children and responsibility. Will Lightman (Freeman) does not work.
He has the good fortune of living off royalties earned from his deceased father’s novelty song, one whose success carried him to an early grave through depression. The song’s success haunts Will yet is symbolic of his preference for a shallow existence, his quest to be but a novelty act in the lives of those he encounters. Having nearly exhausted most segments of available women to bed, Will decides to target single mothers. He convinces himself this newfound focus enables him to bring joy, converting him to a doer of good deeds. While attending a single parents’ group meeting, Will surreptitiously builds a friendship with Suzie. Through her, he meets Marcus who is new to London, being picked on at school and the son of a single mother teetering toward a suicidal end. Marcus imposes his life into Will’s. Through their friendship, Hornby bravely tackles the minefield of what it means to be a boy in today’s world. About A Boy waxes philosophically on single motherhood, depression and whether vapidity is a preferred state to feeling the various angst a passionate life brings.

Recommendation: HIGHEST

Reviewed by Guichard Cadet