Okay, I can probably guess why this book is considered one of Nick Hornby‘s lesser works by fans of the author & yet it found a place on the Man Booker Prize longlist. Speaking for myself, I pick up a Hornby novel primarily for the laughs. Besides that, he gives you those warm, fuzzy moments & some observations about humankind in general that are worth their weight in gold. But do I go in expecting endless self-introspection & whining? Not really.
The protagonist of ‘How To Be Good‘ is Katie Carr, a medical practitioner living with her husband David & her two kids in a London suburb. She is unhappy with her marriage, she is having an affair & has just called David to tell him that she wants a divorce. David refuses to accept that, but Katie is just as confused about her own decision. She thinks she’s a good person & so she believes her husband should be one too instead of being the angriest, cynical & most sarcastic man in Holloway. Then one day, David meets faith healer DJ GoodNews who cures his bad back and out of the blue, David becomes a good person – one who cares about his wife, his children & everything that’s wrong with the world out there, with GoodNews as mentor. And then Katie realises that one needs to be careful about what one wishes for – after all, charity begins at home.
Talking about what I liked about this book, the men win the arguments here. Okay okay, I’m not being anti-feminist here but one gotta see the funny side of it. The plot is inconsistent in its pace, sometimes gliding along while at times just not going anywhere, which brings me to the excessive self-introspection bit I wrote about earlier. It seems like Hornby is trying too hard to be different, after having written two books that are essentially coming-of-age stories. Hornby has this gift of creating impossible situations & then effortlessly finding his way out of it, but it seems he dwells upon these situations longer than necessary, leaving a bittersweet aftertaste.
Still, there is no dearth of genuine laughs in this book nor is there anything lacking in terms of characterisation. This is perhaps Hornby’s most realistic novel till date, for one can recognise a bit of oneself & people they know in each of the characters one encounters.
‘How To Be Good‘ by Nick Hornby certainly isn’t one of his best, but it’s just good enough to merit a read.
Overall Rating: 6/10
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