“About a Boy” by Nick Hornby
Will Freeman is the main character of “About a Boy”, even though he is
already far from being a boy. In fact, he is 38-year-old single Londoner.
Will lives in his own world – which appropriately refers to as an
island – where owning an expensive car and designer clothes fulfill his
satisfaction. He is ecstatically childfree and against marriage, he
actually feels sorry for married people with children. He wants to live his
own life and does not want to think of other people’s problems or be
responsible for them. His philosophy is to mean nothing, about anything to
anyone and he thinks this will guarantee him a long, depression-free life.
His nights, whenever possible, are devoted to beautiful women, with
whom he deliberately never starts a serious relationship. He likes the idea
of having a girlfriend, but plots his escape from them as soon as things
get too serious or complicated.
He is very proud of his way of life and of what he is doing. He is
handsome, self-observed, rich, yet shallow and women find his appearance
irresistible. Will spends his days buying new CDs, shopping for designer
clothes and worrying about his up-to-the-second hairstyle on which he
spends a fortune.
How he finds time for all that is simply due to his lack of a
professional life. Thanks to a ubiquitous Christmas song written by his
father and recorded by everyone from Elvis to the Muppets, Will does not
have to work like the rest of the world. The royalties rolling in have
enabled him to make a profession – an art, really – out of avoiding
responsibility and filling his days with tasks of ease and fundamentally
unproductive actions. Nevertheless, he occasionally volunteers to
participate in minor jobs such as work in soup kitchens, volunteer work,
for which he fills in forms yet never reports for duty.
A brief encounter with a single mother sets Will off on his new
career, that of “serial nice guy”. As far as he is concerned, he is the
perfect catch for the young mother on the go. After an interlude of sexual
bliss, she will realize that her child is not ready for a man in their
life. Will, having searched for a way out of the relationship with his last
victim, happily rides off to the sunset where more single mothers
apparently await. The only catch is that the best way to meet these women
is at single-parent get-togethers. That is when the lies begin. He joins
SPAT – Single Parents Alone Together – and all of a sudden, he is a single
father of an imaginary child among many single mothers who all feel sorry
for him because “the mother of his son took off and left him with all the
responsibility”. As Will feels comfortable with telling lies, he creates
the illusion of his son by buying all sorts of child accessories to account
for his always-absent child.
What interferes with Will’s well thought-through strategy, of course,
is reality – in the shape of a 12-year-old boy who is in many ways his
polar opposite. Having to put up with this child, who happens to be
annoying, weird and entirely unaccustomed to fashion, for a long time finds
a new view to life and himself. He even falls in love, which is a first
time ever for him. In just a few weeks, he turns his philosophy from being
selfish and egocentric to being somewhat responsible and even caring.