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3.2 out of 5 stars
3.2 out of 5 stars
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on 25 August 2009
George Bailey - policeman, junk eater, cigarette smoker, man with a heart condition - not a good concoction. He's heading to an early grave at 47. The reality hits when he suffers a heart attack at work. A bitter sweet second chance at his life changes him when he is given the heart of a 19 year old boy via a donor transplant, and he thinks he is taking on the traits of this young boy.

To his wife Lara, he is another teenager to look after. To his kids, Rufus and Ruby, he becomes a friend rather than the parent he used to be. To his police mates, he is still George, but needs to be monitored like one of the kids on the block.

George soon comes to realise that his family and his old life are everything to him and all he needs. But he has to start from the beginning to win the hearts of his family again.

I have enjoyed all of Tony Parsons books, and this is another great true to life story. He has dealt with the real issues from the view of a modern male - a mid-life crisis and a desire to be young again - in a poignant and believable way.
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on 9 August 2009
I've read all Tony Parsons' books, and enjoyed his earlier novels much more than the later ones. I'm not sure if that's because my taste's changed, or if it's because his writing has. This book reminded me in some way of How to be Good by Nick Hornby - I'm not entirely sure why. (It also has a ring of films like Big and Freaky Friday!) I enjoyed How to Be Good more than I enjoyed Starting Over, but that's not to say it wasn't a pleasant enough read. I liked the characters, who I thought were well developed, particularly the long-suffering Lara, and it was easy to read. The subject matter is interesting, and I suppose he was trying to tackle a serious topic in a light hearted way - the transplant story is really secondary to the "journey" that George goes on, and a catalyst for change. I read this book in a day, and found it an easy, unchallenging read. I can't imagine it will stick in my mind for long, or that I'll rush to lend it to anyone else in the way I did with Parsons' earlier books, but it kept me amused for a bit.
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VINE VOICEon 11 December 2009
This was my first (and no doubt only!) Tony Parson's novel. Reading the critical reviews of 'Man and boy' reflects much of my opinion of this work, although I suspect only the fans will be tempted into reading this subsequent offering. This is a story of a middle-aged policeman whose heart gives up and requires a transplant. The donor organ comes from a teenager, and our middle-aged recipient subsequently develops a teenage outlook on life. The major themes include growing up, parenting, life-goals, relationships, growing old and what makes us who we are.
The type of novel was much better done by Peter Carey's 'Bliss', which is very good. Parson's writing style is really fairly basic, and many of the scenes seemed rather clunky and poorly developed. The book chops around too much from scene to scene without developing any real flow or continuity. There are too many cliches and the attempts at humour very telegraphed and predictable. The result is really a bit of a mess. It doesn't really end but just stops, although I'm not complaining about that! At times it had the feel of being aimed at a teenage audience. It may appeal to those who want to pick up something light and unchallenging for a poolside holiday read. The book is really too bland to hate, so it avoids the 1 star rating on blandness alone! I can't quite understand whether the author is trying to write incisive social satire or comedy, but if you take both, mix and dilute them to homeopathic levels you will get something similar to this.
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on 11 September 2015
A huge disappointment. No depth, no character development. Worse; characters continuously exhibiting 180 degree turns for no obvious reason.
The premise of the book, as advertised everywhere, is great. However, the book does not deliver the promised themes: I could not see "a friend to his teenage son and daughter" or a lover to his wife or someone who wants to change the world.
George - a cop, a wimp, a jerk, a totally worthless character, a loving husband? who is he, really?
Same for the wife and the kids. Weak and erratic character sketches.
Meaningless details and side plots that do not contribute to the book. Overall, it appears as if the book was written by multiple authors.
However, the biggest problem is with the plot itself: Up to a point, we see kids who are real problem makers. It’s not even possible to have a decent dinner as a family. Somehow, all the problems disappear. Ruby is conveniently sent to the grandfolks to clear the stage for further mischief. No mention of her for a long time.
Which wife, after so easily leaving a husband who has just gone through a heart transplant (and with 50% odds to survive 5 years), blatantly introduces her lover to everyone, right in front of her husband who has not committed a deadly sin in my opinion to deserve such a humiliation?
How can a lover threaten to throw a man (who’s legally still the husband) from his home and threaten to call the cops?
And somehow everything goes back to normal in a few pages. Romantic couple re-united, tango, milonga, etc. - problems solved.
Sorry, I have read some very beautifully written books which dwell on family/marital relationships, but this is not one of them.
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on 9 October 2009
My first Tony Parsons novel, and from what the other reviewers say, perhaps not the best to start with. I have to admit that I really hate the way that many modern writers dispense with the normal rules of sentence construction, so TP's ultra-short sentences, many of which begin with "and" or "but" were a big turn off. Tony, why not try joining five or six of your sentences together to make a nice coherent long one so that we can enjoy your stories without feeling as if we're driving down the M1 with traffic lights every fifty yards?
Having said that, I did enjoy this book. I eventually persuaded myself that his style of writing was a bit like listening to a mate tell a story down the pub, and it became a lot less frustrating. Read it on the beach or late at night, let the story ask questions of your relationships with your family and don't take it too seriously.
But watch out. And don't worry. The short sentences won't bite. At least not much. Not for long. Maybe. The end.
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VINE VOICEon 29 August 2009
I really like Tony Parsons - and I always have done right back to his days as a superb music journalist.

As such I have read all of his novels but sadly a number of them - including this one I'm afraid- just doesn't quite fully deliver the goods. It is still better than 90 per cent of the modern popular novels out there but I always think Mr Parsons is capable of something beyond even the (above) average.

This one, for instance, starts brilliantly. The opening two or three chapters are rivetting and as the characters unfold you are engaged, entertained and intrigued. It follows a 42-year-old father of two who is given a new life when he he has a heart transplant but bizarrely it is more 'new' than he expects as he seems to be inheriting some of the characteristics of his heart donor. All good so far.

But then it sort of loses its way a bit and we end up in all too familiar Parsons territory - where it occassionally gets just a bit too mushy and sentimental and our 'hero' realises that despite apparently wanting to be a different person with his new heart he still wants to be the same person of his 'old' heart - the good, family guy. Tony P is clearly desperate to show the world that men can be sensitive, loving and gentle as well as women but after several books saying the same thing I think women might now have got the message....

Despite that it is still well worth reading because some of the set pieces and characters are very memorable. I loved the hero's dad, I loved the scene where they rescue his daughter from some dodgy blokes and I liked the relationship between the man and his teenage son (when they avoided too much of that mush that is) and, as stated, even average Parsons is better than most other modern novellists produce.

So a good book but I think Tony P is capable of great books. It gets four stars - but he is a five star writer and I think he needs another five star book soon.
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on 4 September 2010
Smoothly written and without pretension. Downsides are the main premise of receiving a heart donor's personality along with the actual organ (to the point of recognising a relative in the street) which is naff in itself but is then dealt with in a fairly half-baked way. The protagonist, police officer George Bailey, at times may act like his criminal teenager benefactor then again he also just becomes a long-haired hippy drop-out. It's all a bit ambiguous when just a dramatic brush with death would have been sufficent to propel the narrative. There are signs, too, of writer-fatigue with the subject two-thirds of the way in - which Harper's editior didn't seem too bothered about - the girl rescued from some dodgy geezers seems to immediately vanish from his car without mention again whereas within the space of a couple of pages shortly after that there's a paragraph long detailed description of how George likes his cup of tea, written twice. Damn that copy and paste. Damn that copy and paste.

Actually less of a problem that you'd expect is the sloppy tea and biscuits sentimentality that imbues this book which is forgivable for all the careful attention to contemporary detail, often gritty but never cynical. If you've seen Tony Parsons on telly and expect a regular scowl and a put-down there's none of that here, he's a pussycat. There's just enough of a sense of someone trying to keep it real while still aiming to reach the book buying masses to make it worthwhile. Once or twice he manages to pulls off the whole 'life is bittersweet' effect pretty well and if you can get past the urge to mock the cornyness it will bring a tear to your eye. It did mine.

The cover image of the red plimsolls in the shape of a heart by Bartley Shaw is a nice touch, by the way.
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on 8 April 2015
George, a married 47 year old policeman with two children, has a heart attack. A heart from a recently dead 19 year old rough-diamond hoodlum is found, he has a transplant and starts behaving as a teenager, wearing tight clothes, growing his hair, joining environmental protests, urging everyone to 'follow their dreams', and bringing his family to the brink of collapse.
The story is based on the dubious premise that the recipient of a heart transplant can take on the behaviour of the former owner. This could have led to some interesting tension between the pre-transplant good cop persona and the more antisocial tendencies of the previous owner, but instead George becomes a stereotyped teenager- he drinks too much, he goes to discos, he sulks, he leaves his clothes on the floor. The characterisation of the new George was one-dimensional and very lazily done.
The writing is jerky and awkward, full of Tony Parson's trademark few-word sentences. Which was annoying. And the scenes jumped from short paragraph to short paragraph in a manner more suitable for a film than a book. As another reviewer also mentioned, the book did not so much end as stop.
The book was also in need of some editing. George was 42 on the back cover and 47 in the book, and there was a description of 'builders' tea' (strong, only a dash of milk, one sugar) which appeared again two pages later.
Redeeming features - as a completely inept dancer, the descriptions of how a professional dancer feels when dancing were interesting and uplifting, as were those of swimming pool maintenance, strangely enough.
If you're a Tony Parsons fan or looking for something easy to read, you might enjoy it, but otherwise I would not recommend this book.
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"Starting Over" by Tony Parsons is a novel with an interesting premise - what would we do with our life if we could have another chance to live it through.

The main character George Bailey has received a gift that all people are dreaming of, chance to live his life once again.
When he suffered a heart attack in his middle age, he would receive a heart of a teenager and his life will be changed literally overnight.
George will become thinking as teenager and his new best friends will become his teenager kids, daughter and son, which he hadn't understood before.

But that's not all, as all teenagers are dreaming of, he wants to enjoy his life fully and wants to change he world around himself.
Eventually George will discover that his dream is slowly becoming his nightmare, and slowly most of all, he will want to be his old self again...

First of all, unlike other Tony Parsons' novels, this one is not about main characters' marriages and divorces.
"Starting Over" is a story about growing up, about maturity, about aging, about giving up the dreams of our youth for something better, or something that is most achievable in life.
The novel very well described teenagers' life and due to that inside reader can found some great funny scenes like some during the wedding or the other with mobile in the theatre.
Generally speaking, the novel carries good lesson about second chances - it's not enough to get second chance, if you will waste it missing the chance to become better person.

Therefore, all those who enjoyed Tony Parsons' most popular novel "Man and Boy" will know what they can expect from this one and certainly will enjoy it.
Especially because it seems that the writer's literary skills become better.
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on 10 August 2009
I'm a huge fan of Parsons' earlier books, Man and Boy, Man and Wife, One For My Baby, Stories We Could Tell etc. And found this fairly dissapointing compared to the afore mentioned. The plot development stalls towards the middle of the book, and a lot of 'story' is crammed in at the end. However as always with Tony Parsons, the characters are funny, believeble and interesting.

An enjoyable, lazy weekend read.
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