Monday 23 April 2018

Review: Men From Boys by Tony Parsons

Men From the Boys is the final book in Tony Parson's Harry Silver trilogy, which began in 1999 with the hugely successful Man and Boy, followed three years later by the only slightly less successful Man and Wife.

In Men From the Boys, Harry is about to turn 40. Being the quintessential navel-gazing, thoroughly modern, sensitive bloke that he is, notching up another decade on this earth is causing him angst. Other than that, things are going well. He is producing a grumpy old man-style radio show. His beloved son Pat, the titular boy of the first novel, is a happy 15-year-old; his marriage to the gorgeous American Cyd is going well, as are relations with his teenage step-daughter Peggy, and seven-year-old Joni, his daughter with Cyd, is a constant source of joy.

But things don't stay fine for Harry. Enter Gina, his gorgeous first wife (every woman in Harry's life is gorgeous) who has tired of Japan, where she had been living since Pat -- her son with Harry -- was a small boy.

She too is about to turn 40 but has the body of a 20-year-old, thanks to her 20-something personal trainer, with whom she is having a relationship. Initially, this gives Harry loin stirrings, but these dissipate quickly when he remembers how selfish and slutty she is.

Gina is thought to be based on Parson's ex-wife and mother of his son, journalist Julie Burchill, a fact that he has denied and on which Burchill has commented in a review of this book, "as she is slender, beautiful, sad and boring, that's me out on all counts".

Gina wants her son back, which causes Harry even more angst than turning 40 -- a considerable amount of angst indeed.

Where to turn? His parents are both dead: the father passed in the first book; his mother in the second, so Harry is missing a 'salt-of-the-earth' pillar of sense.

Gorgeous Cyd is no great help, either, as she is distracted by a renewed affection for Peggy's father, a successful, studley sit-com actor who rides a motorbike.

To top it all off, Pat isn't as happy and well adjusted as Harry previously believed. Thankfully, Ken Grimwood, a peppery old army buddy of Harry's father, has come into all their lives to remind them all what is really important.

In terms of story, it doesn't hold a candle to the heart-wrenching highs and lows of Man and Boy, which had the reader laughing out loud or crying like a baby. Pat is less endearing -- and not just because he is a teenager and they are unendearing by definition, but because Parsons has failed to draw him well. Harry, though more rounded and developed a character than in the previous novels, leaves the reader unengaged.

However, fans of the previous two books will enjoy catching up with their favourite 'everybloke' and will be relieved that there is scant use of those really annoying short sentences that punctuated Man and Boy. So. Irritating. To read.

Irish Independent

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