How To Be Good – Nick Hornby: Depressingly Good

How to Be GoodHow to Be Good by Nick Hornby
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book came to me in the most wonderful of ways – as a first gift from a new friend. It was a goodbye gift of a sort and I hope, a hello of a different nature. This is my first Nick Hornby and people whose book opinions I value seem to regard him greatly.

‘How to be good’ has a shocking everydayness about it. Given that the title sounds like it’s parodying a gushing, pontificating self-help book, I guess that’s par for the course. Dr.Katie Carr is coasting along, dissatisfied with her marriage, jaded beyond measure with the burdens of her profession, distracted by motherhood and bogged down by all of it happening at once. She falls into an affair with someone she doesn’t even like all that much but that isn’t the most shocking thing to happen to her life. Her acerbic husband ‘The Angriest Man in Holloway’ decides to turn over a new leaf and become nauseatingly GOOD.

Moral dilemma, self-loathing and suburban angst are finely blended together in a concoction that ends up being horrifying and funny in equal measure. The reviews praise Hornby’s depiction of a female character and I agree. Women don’t feel mystifying, sexy, put-together or irrational from inside. We just feel overwhelmed and confused by life, sometimes, just like everyone else. Hornby’s Katie Carr brings this out well.

The book seemed to drag in the second half, not so much because the plot didn’t move but perhaps the weariness of the key character started to get to me as well. Yes, it was depressing and the wit, negative and poisonous. So if you’re looking for a pick-me-up, this book is not it. But complex emotions and mundane situations are brought out with equal aplomb and you really feel the way the characters do. If that’s not a good book, I don’t know what is.

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