Flo-Joe for Cambridge English Exams

Cambridge English: Proficiency

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Writing Class: Letter about the Set Text

Task Type: Letter about the Set Text

The book club that you belong to is looking for recommendations based on novels with the following theme:

How life's experiences can help us deal with vulnerability.

Write a letter to the chief librarian recommending Nick Hornby's 'About a Boy' for consideration in their future reading programme. You should discuss the significance of this theme with reference to ONE of the characters in the novel. (around 280 - 320 words)

Write the letter to the library (around 280 - 320 words).

Makeover: Francoise

Read Francoise's answer to this question below. Try correcting the piece of writing yourself first: use the marking codes to think about what might be wrong (or what's good) about the piece of work. Then when you're ready, click the green buttons in the text for our feedback.

Dear Sir or Madam

I am writing to recommend Nick Hornby's novel "About a Boy" to be included in your coming WW reading programme on the theme of "How life's experiences can help us deal with vulnerability".

"About a Boy" is set in London in 1993. The title is a reference to Nirvana's song "About a Girl" P whose leader WW Kurt Cobain is considered as (T, -) an icon of vulnerability. The two central characters are 36-year old Will Freeman and 13-year old Marcus Brewer. Will is a wealthy bachelor, living off his father's royalties. Marcus is a schoolboy living with his suicidal mother Fiona after his parents split up. The two of them meet as a consequence of Will joining a single parents' group as a trick WW to seduce young women. Marcus befriends Will and uses him to overcome his lack of confidence at school. As the plot unfolds Will starts providing advice to Marcus and for the first time in his life actually cares for someone else beside WF himself.

Most characters in the novel are vulnerable and Nick Hornby's point is precisely to show WO how connecting with other human beings, no matter how fragile, is a means of overcoming emotional fragility. Will Freeman strikes me as the most interesting case P whose immaturity and idleness are a result of inherited wealth. Wealth is usually not associated with vulnerability. However, because he does not need to make a living, Will is cynical, socially isolated and trapped in loneliness. His motivation for joining the single parents' group is questionable but this initiative has a positive outcome as it triggers connections with people having their own emotional issues. Will gets involved in helping others dealing with their vulnerabilities and becomes stronger in the process.

“About a Boy" is an entertaining, funny but subtle novel that will fit very nicely in your reading programme on vulnerability.


All content is relevant to the task. You have explained the setting clearly and outlined the importance of the theme of 'vulnerability' within the book, and illustrated this through reference to one main character.

Communicative Achievement
You have written the piece in the format of a letter whilst at the same time adhering to the conventions of a review. This would have a very positive impression on the reader, who would be fully informed and persuaded to consider the book.

The letter is very clearly and logically organised, with clear paragraphing. Discourse markers are used effectively and the text reads coherently throughout. I think the final sentence deserved its own paragraph as it acts as an effective conclusion.

A very proficient piece of writing indeed. You have shown your ability to use grammatical structures and vocabulary to express simple and more complex ideas effectively and naturally. On a couple of occasions you missed out a comma. Pay attention to non-defining sentences where a comma is usually required, because, in the cases above, the second clause is extra information

Well done!

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Marking Code

/\ Word(s) missing

- Omit word

C Capitalization

Gd Good

O Organisation

P Punctuation

PE Poorly expressed

R Register/Formality

SS Sentence Structure

S Spelling

T Tip

WF Wrong form

WO Word order

WT Wrong tense

WW Wrong word