Book – How Not To Be A Boy
Author – Robert Webb
Year – 2017
Pages – 328
Genre – Autobiography
Bought for me by Amy and Gavin
This is the first of the books that I was recently bought for my birthday. It was one I had been interested in reading for a little while now and Amy and Gavin were kind enough to get it sent to my house. Robert Webb is of course famous for his roles in Peep Show and That Mitchell and Webb Look, but a couple of years ago he started to do the rounds on TV shows talking about this book, and I increasingly got the feeling that I would like to read it.
The first thing I should say is that it really isn’t quite what I was expecting. I thought that this book was a discussion of masculinity and male feminism. Whilst these are most certainly prevailing themes in the book, it is not the focus of what it is about, but instead it is far more an autobiography. A brutally honest autobiography that doesn’t really cover Webb’s time as a celebrity, but rather focuses on his childhood and university years.
Robert Webb grew up with a father who was abusive two older brothers who were often in fights, and a mother who died when he was a teenager. His interests were not very ‘boyish’, and he constantly struggled with feeling inadequate, with his sexuality, and with how he should treat other people. Webb is startlingly honest – in a way that I can only be jealous of – and shares regularly, and often from his own childhood diaries, not just how he felt, but also some of the awful things he did to other people.
The whole book is wonderful. It speaks to me in a way that few other books do. I can understand the ways he felt, and the things he goes through, whilst pretty much in no way echo anything I have had happen in my life, are so entirely relatable that you cannot help but to be absorbed. He highlights the peculiarities of being a boy and the ways that the world puts pressure on you to behave in a certain way, without once avoiding the reality of how we are the ones responsible for our own actions. This is a really difficult concept to explain, and I wrote that last sentence several times to get it right – something I am still not sure that I have managed, but luckily I don’t need to get it right because Webb has done such a good job of spelling it out in his book. He doesn’t always come across well, but his unflinching honesty gives you pause and let’s you root for him nonetheless.
The whole book is incredibly funny, and yet I cried at least twice reading it. I would read any fiction he wrote in a heartbeat, as it is wonderfully coloured, but in the meantime, I urge you to read this book – especially if you were once a boy yourself.