My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Some stories we read and given the blurb, we know how it will turn out.
Then there are books that are written so economically, so precise and with so much poetry, you enjoy the “making” of the plot more than how the story ends.
I say this because I read A Much Younger Man, and enjoyed the smallness of the book- only 214 pages to be exact.
The title seemed so taboo, so romantic. I picked it up and read it all in one day. Here’s some background(WITH SOME SPOILERS)
Aly is thirty five and teaches English to what the readers will assume are high schoolers (the novel users words like ninth year and eleventh year student to denote student status). However, Aly takes the train one Friday and finds Tom.
Tom is her friend’s fifteen year old son.(I never realized the love interest in this story would be so…young, a child.)
Tom is tall, handsome, plays the lute, can sing and enjoys architecture. The author does not write this with flowery words but the way she writes is almost poetry- like a dance. For example: “Whose boy is this? A neighbour’s glimpsed on a Saturday morning driveway…Whose?(pg. 2).
It doesn’t stop there. In the middle of her prose, the author will throw in a few words of background to catch you up on why a person’s history and it was fun to read like this. She wastes no words and it makes for quick, light, albeit engrossing reading.
So the boy Tom immediately shows interest in Aly and each Friday she finds herself on the train. Even though she has a car. Immediately, we understand something is wrong. Even Aly knows it. Then one day Tom comes home with her and he asks for a kiss…
This is where the taboo starts, and Aly says she didn’t want things to be that way but her heart betrays her. She had an abusive husband before and this is just another circus in her life she wishes no one to find out about.
As a reader and a noble citizen of society- you frown upon what happens between Tom and Aly. Rightly so. But the book does more than tell of their sexual encounters. There are always repercussions.
And there is always love.
Reading about Tom was like reading about a twenty five year old trapped in a fifteen year old body. This brings me to my next point.
In today’s society there is a nasty word for what Aly is doing with Tom.
It’s not even the age difference that is the problem here.
It’s maturation and boundaries.
Parents want their child to grow up and have a fun childhood, a freedom fulfilled life. Not clumped together with someone twice their age. In the book, Tom shows more confidence in himself and hope than Aly does. Sure he leaves his wet towel on the ground sometimes and when they argue he cranks up his headphones. But something about him caught Aly’s attention.
I give this book five stars for superb writing and storytelling.
Quote Nugget: “She lifts her skirt, walks into the shocking, blessed coolness of the foaming water. “Be careful Aly. Give me your hand.” Nothing in her life now bears any resemblance to what it was before. No wonder they don’t know him. She doesn’t know herself.”(Highbridge, 1998, pg. 115: A Much Younger Man)
Title: A Much Younger Man
Author: Dianne Highbridge
Published: Soho Press, Inc.
If you like: Fly on the Wall by Trista Russell and books on taboo, then you’ll love A Much Younger Man.