About a Boy.

By Nick Hornby

Printed: 1998

Publisher: Victor Gollanz. London

Edition: First edition

Dimensions 15 × 23 × 3 cm

Language: English

Size (cminches): 15 x 23 x 3

Condition: Very good  (See explanation of ratings)

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Item information


In the original dustsheet. Red cloth binding with gilt title on the spine.

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Will Freeman may have discovered the key to dating success: If the simple fact that they were single mothers meant that gorgeous women—women who would not ordinarily look twice at Will—might not only be willing, but enthusiastic about dating him, then he was really onto something. Single mothers—bright, attractive, available women—thousands of them, were all over London. He just had to find them. SPAT: Single Parents—Alone Together. It was a brilliant plan. And Will wasn’t going to let the fact that he didn’t have a child himself hold him back. A fictional two-year-old named Ned wouldn’t be the first thing he’d invented. And it seems to go quite well at first, until he meets an actual twelve-year-old named Marcus, who is more than Will bargained for..

The Plot: Set in 1993 London, About a Boy features two main protagonists: Will Freeman, a 36-year-old bachelor, and Marcus Brewer, an incongruous schoolboy described as “introverted” by his suicidal mother, Fiona, despite his tendencies to bond and interact with people. Will’s father wrote a successful Christmas song, the royalties of which have afforded Will the ability to remain voluntarily redundant throughout his life – he spends his plentiful free time immersing himself in 1990s culture, music, and pursuing sexual relations with women. After a pleasant relationship with a single mother of two, Angie, Will comes up with the idea of attending a single parents group as a new way to pick up women. For this purpose, he invents a two-year-old son called Ned. Will then makes a number of acquaintances through his membership of the single parents group, two of which are Fiona and her son Marcus. Although their relationship is initially somewhat strained, they finally succeed in striking up a true friendship despite Will being largely uninterested during the early-middle stages of the novel. Will, a socially aware and “trendy” person, aids Marcus to fit into 1990s youth culture by encouraging him not to get his haircut by his mother, buying him Adidas trainers, and introducing him to contemporary music, such as Nirvana. Marcus and Will’s friendship strengthens as the story progresses, even after Marcus and Fiona discover Will’s lie about having a child.

Marcus is befriended by Ellie McCrae, a tough, moody 15-year-old girl, who is constantly in trouble at school because she insists on wearing a Kurt Cobain jumper. He also spends some time with his dad Clive, who visits Marcus and Fiona for Christmas together with his new girlfriend Lindsey and her mother. Clive has a minor accident during some D.I.Y. work, and breaks his collarbone. This prompts Clive into having “a big think” about the meaning of his life, and he summons Marcus to Cambridge to see him. Marcus decides to bring Ellie along with him for support; however, they are arrested on the way as Ellie smashes a shop window displaying a cardboard cut-out of Kurt Cobain – accusing the shopkeeper of “trying to make money out of him” after his suicide. Meanwhile, to Will’s despair, he falls in love with a woman called Rachel. Rachel is a single mother with a son named Ali (Alistair), who is the same age as Marcus. The two originally fight, but quickly become friends. Will’s emotional faculties are liberated and he begins to “shed [his] old skin” of emotional indifference; simultaneously Marcus is becoming more typical of his age, and he begins to enjoy his life more. The penultimate scene takes place in a police station in Royston (a small suburban town), where nearly every significant character in the novel is present, their common link being Marcus. The novel ends during a three-way dialogue between Marcus, Will and Fiona, where Will, to see if Marcus has truly changed, proposes the idea that he play a Joni Mitchell song on Fiona’s piano, which she is enthusiastic about. However, Marcus responds saying he “hates” Joni Mitchell, whereby Hornby concludes the novel with the narration saying “Will knew Marcus would be OK”.



Nick Hornby was born in 1957, and is the author of six novels, High Fidelity, About a Boy, How To Be Good, A Long Way Down (shortlisted for the Whitbread Award)Slam and Juliet, Naked. He is also the author of Fever Pitch, a book on his life as a devoted supporter of Arsenal Football Club, and has edited the collection of short stories Speaking with the Angel. He has written a book about his favourite songs, 31 Songs, and his reading habits,The Complete Polysyllabic Spree. In 2009 he wrote the screenplay for the film An Education. Nick Hornby lives and works in Highbury, north London.

Condition notes

Dustsheet faded

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