Friday, April 11, 2008

Going Backwards

My knowledge of author Nick Hornby comes not from his novels but from the movie adaptations of them. My favorite is “High Fidelity”, but I also enjoyed “About a Boy” and both the English and American versions of “Fever Pitch”. So I decided it was time to try one of his novels – How To Be Good.. My first surprise came in Chapter 1 – the main character is a woman. In the films Hornby's heroes are witty and self-deprecating, and they are most definitely male. As played by John Cusack, Hugh Grant, Jimmy Fallon and Colin Firth (playing a Bridget Jones's Diary kind of guy, not the steamy Mr. Darcy), they are charming and funny, but they don't know much about women. So how would Hornby's voice sound in a woman? Well, Katie Carr is not exactly a girly girl. She's a hard working GP with two children and a curmudgeonly under-employed husband. She considers herself to be a good person, but in the opening sentence of the book she calls her husband on her cell phone from a car park and says she wants a divorce.. In the next scene she hops into bed with a man she knows only casually. Not your standard definition of “good”.

Kate's husband doesn't exactly fit the “good” definition either. He's a selfish, sarcastic grouch who writes a newspaper column called "The Angriest Man in Holloway”. But then, just when he's about to throw Kate out of the house (he finds out about the affair), he meets a guru/faith healer/whatever called GoodNews and experiences a transformation. How would you react if your spouse of 20+ years suddenly had a complete personality change? What if he transformed himself into a “good” person. And I mean REALLY good. As in, “Let's house a homeless teenager and ask our neighbors to do the same” good. That's the question Hornby asks, and Kate struggles mightily with issues it raises about her marriage, her love of her children, her own selfishness. Sounds like a serious book, and it is in some ways, but it is also very funny and thought provoking. Want to know more about Nick Hornby? Visit his website at

No comments:

Post a Comment