“Have you ever looked back on life and wondered “What if?” That’s the question laced through Robert Graham’s engaging new novel. Part love story, part mid-life crisis, we follow our flawed hero on his nostalgic mission in an intriguing, evocative read.”
Daily Mirror and Daily Express
“Warm, funny and affecting. A page-turning delight.”
CAROLINE SMAILES, author of The Drowning of Arthur Braxton
“The Former Boy Wonder, Robert Graham’s playful and extraordinarily well-observed coming-of-old-age novel, is a book with enormous heart, cloaked in wit and wry intertextuality.”
“If I could summarise my experience of reading The Former Boy Wonder, it would be that I was captivated from beginning to end. It has been a while since I’ve been sucked into a reading portal, where I promised myself to read just one more chapter and before I know it I read half the book. The Former Boy Wonder did just that.”
“I devoured The Former Boy Wonder in just a few days as I was so invested in Peter’s life. Graham is a wonderful writer and I wish I could read the novel again for the first time and experience Peter looking back on his past whilst rebuilding his present.”
“Sidelong and unblinking, The Former Boy Wonder is full of truth clothed in comedy and frustration. Robert Graham tells such a funny, sad and tender story of how we dream and what we’re dealt.”
HORATIO CLARE, author of Heavy Light
“Peter Duffy is one of those narrators that you can’t help but like, even when he infuriates you, and The Former Boy Wonder is both funny and poignant. It would make a great TV series.”
“This is a poignant novel, with real insights into the emotions of someone who is struggling with his role as a father and a husband. Peter Duffy is a hopeless romantic, with a tendency toward fantasy. There’s a real sense of sadness in the situation he finds himself in, but as in real life, there are moments of joy, humour and above all hope. Manchester, the novel’s setting, is more than simply a backdrop. It’s almost a character in its own right. Picturing locations I knew and recognised, both past and present, gave me the chance to revisit aspects of my own past, not just geographically but emotionally, too. That’s a powerful experience.”
NICKY CREWE, LouderThanWar
“I kept picturing lipstick traces on a cigarette and hearing late-night records, the kind you play to conjure up a golden age. This wonder boy’s song brings a romantic’s past to life on the page and reveals the secret fears behind it.”
JEFF YOUNG, Costa Award-Shortlisted author of Ghost Town
“Emotive and really leaves a mark on your heart.” @AboutGassing
“A character-driven, bittersweet story that makes you think about what’s important in life. I would definitely recommend this novel.” @BOOKSWITHBECKY
“I warmed to Peter’s story as he traversed Manchester trying to understand where his life is heading and felt enormous sympathy for Lucy, his wife, who seems to be the only one keeping things afloat. The Former Boy Wonder is a fascinating glimpse into the trials and tribulations of growing older.”
“A wonder of a novel; a charming blend of truth, humour, and mid-life longing.”
JAMES RICE, author of Alice and the Fly and Walk
“Robert Graham is at his best here observing the minutiae of everyday life, the compromises couples make, the small quotidian triumphs and disasters. Peter Duffy, the first-person narrator, is self-critical, and at times emotionally wounded by self-doubt. The tone, however, is generally light, even when dealing with the mental turmoil that he finds himself in. This very affecting novel shows off Graham’s talent for finding the remarkable in the ordinary.”
Shiny New Books
“The Former Boy Wonder keenly observes the way people change as they age and offers a full, unobstructed view of a mid-life man. @Lou_Bookmarks
“I loved this wonderfully written love letter to Manchester.” @rachelreads_booksagram
“A reminder of how gloriously painful it is to be young and eager… A strong sense of period and place is threaded through the story – the housing, nightlife and gentrification of both Manchester and London. The popular music of Peter’s youth adds to the atmosphere, and the slow-motion car crash of his life held me in its thrall.” @followthehens
“The blend of humour with melancholy created a wonderful tone for the whole narrative and made it such a pleasure to read.” leylasblog
“The narrator of Robert Graham’s The Former Boy Wonder is so relatably vulnerable that I almost forgot I was reading fiction. I wanted Pete Duffy to learn, I wanted him to see what he has and appreciate it – and I loved Graham’s funny, authentic voice.”
“Robert Graham’s The Former Boy Wonder provides a refreshing perspective on the mid-life crisis, a generous view of a middle-aged man trying to make sense of the chaos around him, and from the beginning, you cannot help but root for Peter Duffy.”
“I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It took me through a range of emotions, made me laugh, made me cry and made me think.” @BOOKPHACE
If you’ve ever sat around late at night wondering where your first love got to and whether your wife likes anything at all about you anymore – spend some time with Peter Duffy – the mid-life crisis narrator of this funny, sad and very tender novel. Or actually, if you’ve ever sat around wondering why your husband is in the next room, watching a movie instead of talking to you – then you should read it too. It’s just a great portrait of the troubles of relationships – with fathers, sons, ex-lovers, husbands, wives – old friends and – of course – yourself. Peter Duffy is in a way everyman – but he’s also very particular – with his own fantasies and failures to deal with. I loved his efforts to get on with his sulky teenage son (I had one of those myself, and felt great relief reading of this one).
I was sad when I got to the end of this novel and I’ll read it again – and I’d recommend anyone who sometimes feels a bit lost in life to buy this book, spend some time with the warm voice of Peter – and end up feeling like you’ve made a new friend – who’s been through a lot of what we all go through – and lives to tell the glorious tale of his struggle to get it all (almost) right.
The Former Boy Wonder is a bit like F Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby updated and retold by the central character. Like Gatsby, Peter is a true romantic, yearning for what’s gone and unable to see what’s under his nose. Unlike Gatsby, however, he is endearingly introspective, and spikes his story with his sometimes caustic wit. Spanning several decades, he tracks his journey from his Belfast boyhood to contemporary Manchester, via his student days [including a magical, life-changing party lusciously described] and then his high-flying career as a music journalist, each epoch signified by telling cultural markers: the comics, the fashions and most of all the bands. In the narrative present, Peter’s disappointed middle-age is marked by clear-eyed scenes with friends, and most of all with wife Lucy and teenage son Jack, all feeding our fast-growing sense that our hero is still deluded. Yet he remains a likeable man throughout, thanks to his trademark candour, his ebullient sense of humour and a willingness to recognise his faults. No more spoilers: but I fairly sped through the final chapters to a real emotional roller-coaster of an ending. This is a truly satisfying read.
So much to enjoy in this book. It’s superbly crafted, witty and with some wonderful insights into life’s successes and struggles. The characters come alive and I feel actually know them. As a fifty-something ex-student from Manchester, it was also a fantastic nostalgia trip as it took me back to bars, cafes and clubs of the 80s. It does all this without being a cliche or saccharine. There is definitely a bit of an edge at times and it keeps you guessing where it is going.
This is a wonderful novel about fathers and sons, first love and enduring love. One of the things I liked best about it was the characters, who are so believable – perhaps especially the narrator, Peter Duffy. He’s funny and, in his impassioned quest to overcome the obstacles he faces, kind of desperate, and sometimes infuriating. You could call it a coming-of-age story. The age of 50 might sound a bit late for that, but better late than never. A compelling, funny and poignant novel – and I loved it.