A Much Younger Man
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on September 24, 1999
I have never read such an intelligent and moving love story, and Istayed up until 3:00am to finish it. I cared about Aly from the start, andI felt Tom was something really special. He had to be, or Aly wouldn't have been attracted to him. In her (mistaken) teaching career, as she says, she's known maybe thousands of kids. There are boys his age in real life who are mature in different ways (for example, performing artists) and given his privileged background, with smart but difficult parents, there's no reason why he shouldn't be emotionally mature, and in some ways quite sophisticated. But he's not too mature or too good. He is capable of the dishonesty that kids practice on their parents, he exploits the feelings of his first younger girlfriend, he's arrogant in a very young guy's way about other people's creative work, and so on. To me, he is totally believable. I loved him, and I loved the the way this book is written. It moves along, it can be read as a romance, but it also is deceptively simple. Highbridge's descriptions of the city and nature are stunning, there's life in even the minor characters, and humour that catches you off guard. This book is not only incredibly sexy, it is thought-provoking, and to me it rings true.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on December 20, 2001
The subject matter in this book is treated with respect and taste. We get to know Alyson, the 35 year old teacher, intimately. We cry for her. We want it to work with Tom, the much younger man, the son of her college friend. Tom sincerely loves Aly, but it will take a lot of courage to deal with society, Tom's parents, and the pressures on Aly as a schoolteacher. The eroticism is very tastefully done, but also highly sensual. Most of the characters are completely believable, with a few stereotypes thrown in to the mix. I know that I was caught up in the lives of the main characters when I began to helplessly sob in the next-to-the-last chapter of the book. This is not casual, light romance. This is serious stuff. It's heartbreaking, moving, and loving. You feel as if you have gone through the three years from the moment Aly and Tom first catch sight of each other on a commuter train. Aly goes from feeling Tom has an "incipient crush" to understand she is in love. Tom, being younger, feels it much sooner. But, in spite of being younger, his love lasts.
This book is written in a very unique style, jumping from first to third person with nary a breath. However, it works. Nearly everything about this book works, and I have re-read it several times. You can feel the emotions as you read about them. Fine story-writing like this is rare, and I highly recommend this book.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on April 14, 1998
Starting with the provocative idea, "What if May were 16 and a male, and December were a thirty something female?" Dianne Highbridge's novel starkly shows the painfully different reactions the lovers, the lovers' friends and families, even the lovers at different times--have to this premise. What is amazing about this novel is how surely we feel at the end that these two people--no matter the differences in age,class or life experience--belong together. Highbridge lets us know just enough about Aly's damaging first marriage, and Tom's instinctive, sensitive appraisal of it, to let us see Tom as someone who will heal as well as love her. Tom's youth is not shied away from but we also get a full, many-coloured picture of traits that will only braid more strongly through time with Aly's . The writing itself is what impresses me most about this book: spare, haiku-like suggestions that hold the weight of so much more; gleams of thoughts about Tom interrupting more and more frequently to show not tell us Aly's growing awareness of him. This is how a woman is really seduced and Highbridge has the delicacy and flair to let the love between them seep into our reading. As it would in real life. The story compels, the prose is poetry--a wonderful read.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on February 26, 2000
'a much younger man' was breathtaking!
i wasn't sure what to expect when i began reading this novel. sitting out on the porch, i had intended to read about a chapter at most but in the end i was turning page after page for almost one and a half hours!
ms. highbridge's prose is pithy, yet haunting, ethereal. slowly and deliberately, the novel explores the complex layers of Aly and Tom's relationship - and slowly and deliberately, the reader falls in love with them and empathises with the difficulty of their predicament. Without resorting to sentimentality, Highbridge juxtaposes the simple beauty of Aly and Tom's feelings for each other against the anger and the censure of others. Highbridge doesn't try to romanticise the situation, and deals with a lot of the real problems they face in a stark and succint way. this book has some dark and sad moments, but the prose is never less than breathtaking and lyrical in its simplicity.
tom is indeed, as aly describes him, 'beautiful'. perhaps he is more mature than any teenager that ever lived, but you can forgive the author this indiscretion, because Tom is so endearing, so constant in his love for aly that you just can't help loving him too, and fully understanding why aly goes through all that mess to be with him.
i could not put this book down the first time i read it and have to confess that i reread it only days after finishing it the first time - it had that much of an impact on me! i have no doubt in my mind that i will read it many more times, and highly recommend it to any reader who is looking for a love story with an unconventional setting. a truly beautiful book!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on May 23, 1998
I cannot remember ever having read such a compelling love story. I suffered and rejoiced with Aly, I couldn`t eat nor sleep until the end, which has such a unique visionary intensity. I even bought a CD by Barbara Strozzi... Reading this story is falling in love yourself. Impossible not to identify with Aly, what with her being neither very young, nor very slim, nor very succesful. Painful to realize, on closing the book, that it would be hard to come by a Tom in real life, a boy so truly independent from others, a boy knowing his own mind and acting by it, a boy with authentic interests beyond the mainstream. And, above all, with a heart uncorrupted by the modern tendency towards keeping disengaged. These qualities are rare in men and positively contrast with what I know about teenage boys. (The fact that Tom displays them might be attributed to the "kind of sling, from some tribe in the Amazon", that he was carried in on his mother's back as a baby, though...) Anyway, and strangely so, all this can do nothing to diminish the truthfulness and magic of the story. Thank you, Dianne Highbridge.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on May 4, 1999
At the end of a dinner party, my hostess bundled me off with a copy of "A Much Younger Man", telling me that I'd likely enjoy it. Enjoy it I did -- I fairly devoured it, staying up all night to read it, unable to put it aside. I hadn't expected to feel much compassion for either of the two main characters, the 30-year-old Aly and her 16-year-old paramour Tom. Normally I have little sympathy for adults (of either sex) who become romantically entangled with teenagers. But Dianne Highbridge draws such a sensitive and compelling portrait of Aly and Tom that I found myself rooting for them, against all odds. I also found myself stopping to re-read passages that were so gracefully written, I was tempted to jot them down in my journal for the sheer pleasure of reading them again. Thanks to Dianne Highbridge for a lovely, moving, and ultimately unforgettable read.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on July 22, 2001
A friend sent me this book & right away I felt compelled to read it for some odd reason. I would not normally think it is okay for a mature woman to have a sexual relationship with a guy 20 years younger than her but for some reason Tom is way mature for his years in intellect. Yet he is still young enough to desire all the things a young guy his age normally wants. This story just really captured me & I loved it!
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on June 7, 2000
The creative use of empty space is not confined to Japanese esthetics but is a concept put to use in, certainly, all Japanese art forms. The author of this novel, having spent eighteen years in Japan, has absorbed that lesson and produced what can only be called a powerful story, powerful in its apparent stylistic simplicity. What is left unsaid trails in the wake of what is said. Sex can be at once lusty and, well, pure enough. This novel is exceptionally fine.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on May 28, 2010
Dianne Highbridge's A Much Younger Man unfolds with pressure-cooker intensity. The suspense doesn't let up, even though the title and the meeting in the first chapter basically tell you what's coming. The "much younger man" is actually a teenager - credible as such and not at all generic. In fact he's fully developed and quite likable. The supporting characters also get their due, often with mordant humor. One of the many things I loved about this novel was that the characters were "normal" yet no less interesting for it. They all had some kind of edge.
The person who holds this together is Aly, the "older woman" (late thirties), skittish about another try at romance, ever observant and alert, not the sort of person who would get herself into this sort of situation. The story is told from her perspective with a tight focus, sprinklings of terse humor, and devastatingly on-target psychological observations.
At first I resisted reading this novel due to the subject matter. But once I picked it up the pages flew. If I had to choose one word to describe the plot momentum, it would be "relentless." It just totally pulls you along.
The story happens mostly in an Australian city, and you get quite a sense of the place. Part of it is in Italy.
A Much Younger Man could also be a fabulous movie.
If you'd like to read a well-constructed, psychologically astute novel with characters who develop and brilliant writing, I recommend A Much Younger Man, by Dianne Highbridge. She is a story-teller and an artist. I can't wait for her next book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on October 16, 2011
I bought this book when it was first published many years ago. I bought it on a whim. Maybe the embrace on the cover attracted me; I don't know.

This year (2011), I found it again as I was culling my paperback collection, and something about the cover pulled me inside finally. I read it in one sitting. And I've read it at least ten times since.

Two reasons for buying it, and for ultimately coming to adore it, are now apparent to me. The first reason is that the author has an authentic voice that I have fallen in love with. With the verbal simplicity of ee cummings, she weaves a dangerous story about love and fulfillment that many, if not most, people will not understand. The second reason is that I knew a woman my age who fell in love with a boy, and I was probably thinking of them when I saw the cover originally and bought the book. They fell in love when she was 32 and he was 16, and they remained in love, and together, until she died of breast cancer a few years ago.

I'm a much older person now than I was when they were my friends - when I envied their love. I've had tons of relationships with men my own age, and most if not all were sick, lacking, and/or ugly. I have never been in love, as portrayed in this short novel, but I've seen it in the lives of others I've met and known very well. Being in love and being loved is a miracle. That's why I keep the book nearby. The text is much closer to a loving relationship than I will ever have, and so much more fulfilling than the ones my battle-weary soul has endured.
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