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The Best a Man Can Get by John O'Farrell
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The Best a Man Can Get (2000)

by John O'Farrell

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470834,299 (3.21)2
"Michael Adams shares a flat with three other men in their late twenties. Days are spent lying in bed, playing computer games and occasionally doing a bit of work. And then, when he feels like it, he crosses the river and goes back to his unsuspecting wife and children. For Michael is living a double life - he escapes from the exhausting misery of babies by telling his wife he has to work through the night or travel up north. And while she is valiantly coping on her own, he is just a few miles away in a secret flat, doing all the things that most men with small children can only dream about. He thinks he can have it all, until is deception is inevitably exposed... The Best a Man Can Get is written with the hilarious eye for detail that sent John O'Farrell's first book, Things Can Only Get Better, to the top of the bestseller lists. It is a darkly comic confessional that is at once compelling, revealing and very, very funny."… (more)

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Showing 1-5 of 8 (next | show all)
"I had spent my childhood doing what my parents wanted to do and now my adulthood seemed doomed to be spent doing what my children wanted to do."

Narrator and central character Michael Adams is a 32 year old freelance jingle writer living in north London with a wife and two young children to support. Michael is disillusioned with work and the demands of family life where he feels constantly undermined by his wife, Catherine. On the pretence that he can no longer work from home, he decides to share a flat in south London with a group of bachelors. Thus creating himself a double life. In one he is a free and single young man who spends most of his day lounging in bed, going to parties or taking part in trivia quizzes with his flatmates. Then at the weekend he returns home to domesticity and parenthood with all the trials and tribulations which that engenders. Neither his flatmates or his wife knows about the duplicitous life he is leading.

Michael initially believes that Catherine copes with the children much better when he is not about and that he is a better husband by staying away throughout the week returning home well rested and thus more jovial at the weekend. He doesn't notice that Catherine is in reality putting on a front and is struggling with the harsh demands of motherhood with a stay away partner. Michael eventually comes to realise that his double life is having a financial and an emotional cost on his family so decides to move out of the flat and back home permanently. However, in the meantime Catherine discovers his secret and leaves home herself with the kids. Michael finally wakes up to what being a father really entails. He himself had grown up without one as his own had run off with a series of women when Michael was young. This at least gives some mitigating background to Michael's own behaviour whilst at the same time giving the tale a little added substance.

On the credit side there is a restless energy and a pleasing ironic style throughout along with some rather clever ideas. It is a well observed, if grossly exaggerated, piece of work about the differences between the stay at home home-maker and the going out to work partner with their excuses to not rushing home at the end of the working day.

However, on debit side I felt that far too long was often spent on delivering one single joke meaning that many of the gags missed the mark and whilst I might have read this with a smile on my face I didn't laugh out loud.

This is undoubtedly a lads' mag sort of novel, light and none too demanding, ideal for a long flight/train journey, or something to peruse whilst sipping sangria beside a pool somewhere and as such will help fill a certain void. It isn't by any means a bad novel, it is not one that will probably live long in the memory either. ( )
  PilgrimJess | May 28, 2018 |
Songwriter Michael Adams has the perfect life. A beautiful wife ; two wonderful children and a third on the way ; and the best of both single and married life. You see, he has created a way to spend several nights and days per week away from home living in an apartment on the other end of London. He sees his wife and children just enough to enjoy them when he wants while not having to deal with the children when he doesn't.

But his "perfect" life proves illusory when the single life and family life can no longer coexist happily. What is perfect for Michael is not so perfect for the wife he loves more than anything else in the world. Michael is forced to make a choice and learns some lessons along the way.

John O'Farrell's debut novel is a British romp through the challenges of fathering and its inherent dangers to marriage. What makes this tale stand out, however, is its whole-hearted portrayal of family's importance in a man's life. Men, married or no, are most often portrayed as philandering, sex-obsessed and unfaithful to their spouses and families. But, from the start of this book, protagonist Adams is a loyal family man.

Unfortunately, O'Farrell dampens this message with sexual material that is too explicit for this otherwise light romp. Michael Adams captures my viewpoint perfectly when he muses, "I didn't disapprove of sex, but Hugo talked with such contempt about the women he had seduced that it almost left as bad a taste in my mouth as it must have done for them." The vulgarity and sparse but prurient content of this book leave me with a sour aftertaste.

That complaint aside, this is a wonderful book. It reads as though destined to become a movie. Not surprising given O'Farrell's background in screenwriting. But only purists will be bothered because this book is funny and poignant at the same time. Sudden surprise twists keep the reader on his toes and lead to an ending that ties up loose ends and finishes with a pleasant gasp. ( )
  AlexisLovesBooks | Feb 9, 2016 |
Read this as a teenager. I remember being shocked that the main character managed to lead two lives. I hated that he cheated on his wife and his general attitude but there were some funny lines.
  Cynical_Ames | Sep 23, 2014 |
A cross between Tony Parsons and Ben Elton, this story follows the double-life of Michael Adams who spends part of the week living with his wife and young family, and the rest of the time living with a bunch of single blokes in a rented flat, sleeping until mid afternoon and behaving like a student. It helps of course that he has a job in which he can choose his own hours. Naturally his wife is unaware of the arrangement (she thinks he's working away) and his flatmates have no idea he is married with kids.

Despite all the laddish antics, I found Michael quite a sympathetic character - his description of the drudgery of early parenthood is entirely accurate. It was hard to blame him for wanting to escape from it. And of course it was massively funny throughout.

The only dip in entertainment value for me was the mandatory moment in which our errant hero Sees The Light. It was always going to happen and when it did it was buttock-clenchingly trite. What a relief, then, that there was still plenty of humour, as well as a twist or three up the author's sleeve after that point ( )
  jayne_charles | Nov 20, 2010 |
Laugh out loud! ( )
  Mumineurope | Aug 13, 2010 |
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» Add other authors (6 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
John O'Farrellprimary authorall editionscalculated
Klingberg, OlaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To Jackie, with love
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I found it hard working really long hours when I was my own boss.
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