About a Boy by Nick Hornby

In an inconspicuous street in downtown Hamilton in Bermuda, there is a quaint little shop called Twice Told Tales. This ingeniously named store obviously sells second-hand books. One might not imagine going to a bookstore while on a vacation to Bermuda, but that’s exactly what I did. I love non-commercial bookstores, especially “adopting” books that have been abandoned by their first users. Also, how can one let a good deal on a book slip by? Twice Told Tales was small, also functioning as an internet café. Most of the books there were larger volumes about travel, which I gladly overlooked. The interior of the store, however, had several paperbacks and I spotted Nick Hornby’s About a Boy and Michael Cunningham’s The Hours. Incidentally, I’ve heard about both these novels due to their film adaptations, and I really liked both the films.

I started reading About a Boy that night at the hotel room and continued reading it on the long journey back and a few days of the New Year in Houston. Usually an easy read like this doesn’t take me a long time, and although I was slow, I relished the book’s every page and incident. I am in love with the British way of conversing, their lifestyle and attitude, which seeps through the pages of this book. Will Freeman, one half of the protagonist duo, is a womanizer you can’t help but love. Your heart goes out to Marcus, the other half, who is a dysfunctional, precocious boy. Anyone who has gone to school and been singled out for being different will identify with Marcus’s loneliness at and fear of school. But we’ve lived through it, and want to cheer Marcus to get over it too.

The conversations between the various characters are the highlight of this book: the ones between Will and Marcus being the craziest and funniest of them. The narrative is in third person, but the chapters alternatively focus on Will and Marcus’s POV. It is especially interesting to read one single incident through the POV of both of these characters. Will’s mind is a hilarious place and it is a joy to know what’s going on in it. If you’ve bullied a kid in school, you must get to know Marcus, a boy who is a misfit for no good reason.

If you’ve seen the movie, be warned that the end of the movie was completely changed for apparent commercial reasons. The end of the book is much les… climactic. Like any good book, the end of this one makes you want to stay a little longer in the lives of the characters. You are not ready to leave them just as yet and you take solace in the fact that even if you’ve closed the book and kept it away, the characters are still there, living their life.

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