Tuesday, June 22, 2010

To Read or Not To Read ...

Now that college is OVER, I finally have time to once again read books for pleasure. And considering work are only giving me a measly twelve hours or so a week (grrrr), I’m devouring them. I recently had the fantastic opportunity to do a bit of work experience in the Sunday Independent, and I was recommended a book to read while there, and to perhaps write a review. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not naive enough to think that they might actually publish said review (HAHAHA), but hopefully some feedback might swing itself my way. It was actually quite a good book – I thought it would do me for a few days on the beach while I was in Croatia, but I flew through it in about two days and was then left to stare enviously at the beautifully tanned Croatians and mourn my paper white Irish skin. Goddamn genetics.

Tony Parsons, Men from the Boys, Harper Collins, May 2010

Men from the Boys is the final chapter in Tony Parsons’ Harry Silver trilogy, beginning with the multi-million selling Man and Boy (1991), and the slightly less so – albeit still bestselling – Man and Wife (2002). Having spanned a decade of Harry Silver’s life by the last book, Men from the Boys chronicles the end of our view into the lives of Harry, his fifteen year old son Pat, wife Cyd, her daughter Peggy, and their daughter together, Joni.

Pat has reached the problematic stage of a teenager; his main concerns are making the school football team, garnering the attention of the typically beautiful and popular Elizabeth Montgomery, and dodging some bullies. Also fifteen – and wearing skirts that are too short for her – is Peggy, Cyd’s daughter from her first marriage to the improbably handsome actor Jim, while seven year old Joni is worried about monsters after dark. Problems also ensue in Harry’s work life; initially boasting a glitzy career in television, Harry finds this fading – along with his youth – and has downsized to a radio show in which he and his co-host Marty mostly complain about various things. Life bumbles along nicely for Harry regardless – until his ex-wife Gina returns from a long spell of absence, at the same time that a grumpy old army veteran with irreversible lung cancer comes knocking on Harry’s door looking for Harry’s deceased father.

Possibly the most likable aspect of Men from the Boys is Harry himself, Parsons’ typical – and likable – everyday man with everyday problems; modernity at its best and worst. The Silvers are certainly not a typical nuclear family, what with two divorces and an assortment of kids, and Gina’s several year disappearance from her son’s life to the point where her name causes Pat to flinch is a storyline not often penned; an absentee mother and single father.

Problems faced regularly by many families – albeit problems that are a little to accumulated to be entirely believable – are thoroughly explored and detailed, and you find yourself unquestionably rooting for poor old Harry as his world begins to crumble. Pat decides he wants to establish a relationship with his estranged mother and promptly moves in with her, causing no end of emotional turmoil for Harry, which in turn has a negative effect on Harry’s marriage; coupled with his job problems, Harry begins to wonder if Cyd isn’t pining for her ex- husband, Jim.

As the novel progresses, Harry’s discontent with modern life is evident from the strong admiration he has for Ken’s generation; those who fought to give everything they could for their country, and are being left by the wayside in present day. One poignant moment is when technology rather unfortunately collides with a memorial for the veterans in the form of a mobile phone, and Harry laments that things were a much simpler time before divorce became rife.

With multiple problems all landing themselves on Harry at once over the course of several months, it would be easy to get carried away with drama, but Parsons strays from making these issues too extreme; Pat is troubled, certainly, but a fondness for cigarettes and ditching a few days of school is hardly the makings of a tearaway teen, while Harry’s domestic concerns with Cyd are unlikely to send them down the path of the dreaded D-word. Despite work problems, the unusual little family is never threatened with being dislodged from their home.

Men from the Boys progresses evenly and at a leisurely pace; it is in little hurry to reach the end, and there are enough threads to weave a subtly colourful tapestry that keeps you interested until that point. Its strongest selling point is the remarkably well drawn out characters; Harry is likable, as is his brood, and he is not unwilling to display fear and uncertainty when his lovely little life is knocked off course. A rather compelling read overall; a nod can be given to the fact that Parsons’ style means it isn’t necessary to have read the first two books to understand what is going on. Although those familiar with this style might also find the frequent slew of three and four worded sentences and over-use of the full stop is a little tiresome at times; a sentence with more than one line and a few commas instead would not go amiss here and there.

I know this is a technically lazy post, considering I’d already written that ... but I’m having a lazy day ;)  Reviews were never my strong point; when I’m recommending stuff, my recommendations usually consist of sentences like, “Oh they’re sooo good, like they’re just really awesome!” or “it’s such a good film, like it’s really awesome!” or “it was a brilliant book, like it was seriously awesome!” Eh ... you get the point. So I’m going to write a review of every book I read this summer, and possibly all films I see too, although to be totally honest here there’s a fair chance this will all go to crap and you’ll never read another review on this blog again. Yep.


  1. Hmmmm not sure what I think....it sounds a little too soft to entertain me!

    Have you read The Secret History? Now there's a GREAT book!

  2. Yeah, its a bit easy going, there's nothing major that keeps you shocked or in suspense. It is good though, but it just kind of bumbles along at a leisurely pace.

    Ooh I havn't actually but my friend keeps yapping on about it, is it the one with the kids who study Ancient Greece or something, and something happens (she wouldn't tell me what!) and it all kinda goes downhill from there?! I'm having Dead Poet's Society flashbacks! I'm in the middle of American Gods at the moment, which might take a while, but I'll give Secret History a go after!

  3. Great review! :) about a million words longer than any review I've ever read, but for the Sunday Indo, it needs to be I'd imagine!

    The book sounds a little too unexciting for me, like you said about it kinda bumbling along...I really don't love books like that.

    I'm reading Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel at the moment....CAPTIVATING! I'd highly recommend it. I usually don't go for the typical "award winning" books, but seriously, this one is great.x

  4. Yeah, they asked for about seven hundred ... a little intimidating at first but its not too bad!

    Wolf Hall, haven't heard of that one but its going on the list! I've got a million and one must reads, but there's a few that I plan to get read by the end of the summer. My mother keeps telling me to do something productive ... but sure that it productive ...! ;-)