Saturday, April 01, 2006

Man and Wife by Tony Parsons

I really enjoyed Parsons's first novel, Man and Boy. It's the story of Harry Silver, an irresponsible young man who throws away his marriage when he can't resist a one-night stand, and suddenly finds himself raising his preschool-aged son, Pat, on his own. Harry's transformation from self-absorbed young idiot to caring, mature father was a cute feel-good story that I happily recommended to many friends.

This sequel was, I'm sorry to say, a disappointment. Harry Silver is newly remarried to a wife that he loves, but he very quickly sinks back into the self-absorption that I thought he'd shaken off in the previous book. He loves his son Pat just as much, but is a little too myopic about the boy and I got pretty tired of Harry blathering about how wonderful Pat is. (Yes, yes, your kid is great. Shut up already.) This book is plagued by an annoying tendency for passages and chapters to end with several paragraphs of melancholy internal monologue followed by an angst-packed short sentence. Harry seems to be living so much inside his head that the story itself suffers, told as it is in short snippets between pages and pages of narcissistic navel-gazing.

Ay, ay, ay! In the end, I just couldn't stomach any more of it. At the end of Chapter 13, when Harry has distanced himself from his new wife and is in pursuit of a hot babe, I decided that when you feel an irresistible urge to reach into the book and slap the main character, but can't think of any other compelling reason to keep the book open, it's time to look for something better. Luckily, my shelves are very well stocked with high-potential reading material. Onward!

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