by Tony Parsons
There are two ways to read Tony Parsons. One is as an acute observer of (largely) male experience: see the blokeish angst of Man and Boy. Alternatively, one might see Parsons' excavations of mundane reality as the mundane excavations of a mundane writer: 'His hairline was already receding faster than his dreams,' is one beauty vouchsafed by Starting Over. This is the story of George Bailey, a dead-ringer for, er, George Bailey in It's a Wonderful Life, but more tediously so. Whereas George 'Kapra' Bailey met angels and was married to Donna Reed, George 'Parsons' Bailey is a 42-year-old London policeman married to the ridiculously idealised ex-dancer Lara, with two children. George is chasing a criminal one day when he suffers a heart attack. Luckily, a 19-year-old male carrying a donor card has been run over in the italicised prologue and saves George's life. Given a second chance, George paws his wife, totally like hangs out with his kids and ignores the fact that his father has Alzheimer's disease. A hymn to graceful ageing and the pleasures of the routine, Starting Over is somehow enjoyably readable and monumentally depressing.