on 18 February 2014
High Fidelity was semi-entertaining all the way through; the prose was humorous without trying too hard (same goes for the dialogue); and the plot--not that there is much of a plot--kept me interested until the end. The book had a few funny parts, too, plus some cute one-liners every now and then, and in general was a good read. It's not an amazing book or one I'd run around recommending, but it wasn't bad--or, worse, boring.
It's the story of (some guy, I forget his name), who owns a failing record shop, and has just split up with his girlfriend and is now dealing with real life--or something. I can't really remember. I read it a few weeks ago and only started writing this now. I think the main character was having a mid-life crisis or something. He becomes obsessed with winning back his ex, even though he cheated on her when she was pregnant, and even though he probably doesn't love her that much anyway. Or maybe he does. Maybe that's real love, at least in this author's world.
And that's the part that bugged me about this book: the reality aspect. That might sound dumb, but it bugged me that the main character was so real, so completely arrogant and shallow and useless. He was a d***; a likeable d***, but still a d***. And it irritated me that the love story was without any real romance or fanfare or climax. The book showed the mundane, predictable routine of life and relationships. It showed the boring, unromantic side of love; the smelly breath, pyjamas and unshaved legs of love. I hated that. I like conceptualised love. I like to read fake fantasy love -- maybe because I distrust and hate actual love in real life (the pain, torture and unhappiness of it all), which I guess made me relate to the main character, but I didn't want to like him or empathise or understand him, although on some level I guess I did. I read fiction to escape that side of life, not be dragged right back into it. Then again--it was good, it was different.
It makes a change, I suppose.
I'm not even sure what my opinion is now.
Either way, this is readable but nothing groundbreaking.
on 12 November 2006
Someone else mentioned that the first 32 pages alone were worth the price of the book -- and that reviewer is correct! This novel starts off beautifully: the tone of the narrator is wounded, possibly because he's reeling and in shock from the recent departure of his girlfriend, Laura. What we have is the narrator trying to come to grips with the situation, tabulate how truly hurt he is, weighing this "dumping" to former dumpings by past girlfriends, starting from the first girl he ever kissed.
I just love the tone; the guy is really hurting (and we've all been there). It's this tone I think that gives such clarity to his confessional. Anyway, following this "resume of relationship trauma," we follow as the narrator goes on to deal with his life and disappointments. As a record shop owner, he's considered an "underachiever," a loser by some. His ex is a lawyer, hence the dilemma. (The double standard is that a man can be a lawyer and have a girlfriend with a simple job and everything's fine; BUT if the woman partner is the lawyer -- then HE should at least be equally as "successful"?! Well, this smacks of reality. In the eyes of society, he needs to "grow up." Many of us reading it will feel differently, perhaps.) This book is really an accurate portrayal of the male psyche, and it delves into many of the anxieties and fears that men suffer. But Hornby knows how to mix humor with the moments of soul-searching, so it doesn't become a drag. In the end, this book is really a great romantic comedy. Certainly, one of the most honest, insightful, and funniest accounts of guy/gal relationships I've come across since reading The Losers Club by Richard Perez. Definitely don't hesitate to pick up a copy!
on 23 December 1999
Nick Hornby's HIGH FIDELITY opens with a list that most teenage males and men have made variations of in their own lives: their five most memorable break-ups. Before we even know where this list is going to lead, we know protagonist Rob Fleming is going to be a guy after many of our hearts. He is the kind of guy that pays extremely close attention to his relationships with women, is always looking for that "perfect" girlfriend (in the sense of perfect for him), and if pressed just a bit, could readily produce the names of every girl that ever deigned to kiss him romantically on the lips. Not that this is a good thing, but it's just something we can do, kind of like being able to rattle off the last ten NCAA basketball champions. Self-obsessed? Sure. Identifiable? Like the sun in the sky.
Rob is a 35-year-old North London record shop owner who never recovered from the toughest of those five break-ups--the one that stunned him right out of college. He knows his chosen musical genres obsessively, but no longer quite as obsessively as his employees, the overbearing Barry and timid Dick. The shop and his music, however, seem to make up Rob's whole world, and he is not comfortable outside them. Nor is he happy with himself outside of a monogamous relationship. So why (consciously or not) does he always sabotage them? Following Rob as he seeks the answer to this question can be hilarious and sad and rejuvenating.
Hornby's prose is consistently keen of wit and often raucously funny. Because there's just so much literature out there I want to experience, I almost never re-read books. I read HIGH FIDELITY twice in six weeks--Nick Hornby taught me how silly I was.
on 24 January 2002
High Fidelity shows the reader as much about the male perspective as Briget Jones did for the female. This is not to say that there are men who are exactly like Rob in the novel, but there are a great many who obviously share at least one of his characteristics.
The title in itself tells the reader what to expect from the novel. 'Hi fidelity' - a term used in music and also as a way to indicate his 'fidelity' to Laura and how, even when the possibility of a continuing relationship looks dim, they will always come back to each other.
Described like this 'High Fidelity' may seem an impenetrable mish-mash of social/gender/romantic commentary, but the dry wit and the 'reality' of the characters - especially Barry and Dick - make this book laugh out loud funny and perhaps at some stages tears rolling down cheeks funny. The character of Rob is sometimes too realistic. More than once a burning desire is felt to pick him up by the scruff of his leather jacket and try to remove by force the immense chip on his shoulder. But this only serves to show how good Hornby is at presenting his characters. Just as you want to shout at Bridget Jones, so you want to shout at Rob Flemming, and tell him exactly what your all-time top-5 novels are. This one would certainly be up there with the greats.
I read this a couple of times about ten years ago, and it immediately became one of my favourite books: I recall that sharp pang of identification as Rob, the narrator, described his relationships, family and (especially) music. The latter is the thing that stayed with me the longest - indeed, at times it seemed like it was almost a licence for my own feelings about songs, records, films and - let's face it - snobbery.
Rob, Dick and Barry (the latter forever identified in my mind with Jack Black in the film of the novel) don't have opinions, they have lists, and they fight over tiny details in a way that seems unbelievable until you recognise those traits in yourself. The way in which Rob is gradually rescued from this emotional desert by the love of a good woman is heartwarming, and contains some hilarious moments - for example, he's aghast when she says that she sings along with the chorus of "Hi Ho Silver Lining", or goes "Woooh!" at the end of "Brown Sugar" ("there's no greater crime than that, as far as you're concerned, is there?"), or thinks that "Bright Eyes" is different from "Got To Get You Off My Mind" because one song is about rabbits and the other features "a brass band" ("A brass band! A brass band! It's a *horn section*!")
Re-reading it (as light relief in the midst of a much heavier book) after all these years, I enjoyed it all over again. It's Hornby's attention to detail that really makes this work: of course, there's the casual tossing of the names of bands and records into the narrative in a way that expects the reader to understand the references (and the frisson of excitement that's generated when you do), but there's also the way he precisely evokes memories of a time and place just by mentioning the names of defunct stores ("a VG supermarket", "Harlequin Records").
I'd forgotten, however, just how immature Rob was (there's a telling conversation he has on the way to a funeral which displays a breathtaking degree of self-centredness), and some of the technical detail has dated (I imagine that new readers from the download age can't understand why anyone should have so many CDs and records cluttering up their living space), but it's still a brilliant book, and an indirect warning about the dangers of valuing things over people. Or writing about things too much. Like this, for example.
on 14 January 2000
This book was recommended to me by my fiance because it thought it would help me understand him, and I have to admit, it opened a window to the actions of some men through the eyes of the narative character, Rob, that I can relate to having witnessed, as I found myself comparing the book with reality to find similarities that were laughable to think about. To start, the self-pitying Rob takes a look his misfortunes with women from as early back as his school days, even as a member of the opposite sex, I felt able to relate to his experiences because everyone, myself included, will have at some point been like him, or known someone like him. As the book progresses, his actions in the present day also seem familiar as I can imagine his some-what cynical, and unintentionally comical presentation of events happenening to people I know. For example, when he realises that women are just like men because they too keep their 'best pants' for when they're going out first time with a bloke, but move in together and the 'faded M&S specials start appearing on the radiator'.
I would recommend this book to anyone, as it offers men a chance to realise that they are not alone in their suffering of the female of the species, and women a chance to relate to and appreciate the more vulnerable of males, and perhaps even understand them? (or attempt to feel sorry for them)
on 8 February 2000
RITA BENEDETTI From University of PISA-Italy
"HIGH FIDELITY" by Nick Hornby A book review
In "High fidelity" by Nick Hornby, the presence and importance of music is comparable to the soundtrack in a film. In fact music is not only a job for the 35-year--old Robert, owner of a record shop in London, but as himself says "a whole world sometimes more loving than the world I live in". Besides , songs accompany him in every moment of his life and mirror his thoughts and feelings better than words. Apart from music, love and friendship also play an important role in this book. Initially Rob makes a mess of his life because he is insecure, confused and sometimes immature. When the story begins Rob and his girlfriend Laura have just split up, but many past experiences have affected him negatively. Even his friendship with Dick and Barry, the young employers in his shop, is cold because he is not able to confide in them. In the end Robert understands what really matters in his life and he becomes more mature and self-aware. The style is colloquial, brilliant and ironic thanks to Rob's witty remarks. The book is a first person narration, so that the reader is more involved in the story and can identify with the protagonist. This is exactly what happened to me! A MUST READ!
Meet Rob Fleming, "a whole load of averageness into one compact frame", now in his mid thirties but trapped in adolescence. Laura has left him, prompting much angst added to by memories of teenage romances that ended in grief.
Rob is one of life's losers with few experiences that elevate (amongst them Marie La Salle, his "bonkus mirabilis"). Otherwise it is downhill all the way - record shop failing, acquaintances barely tolerated, a local with clientele "either terrifying or unconscious".
Nick Hornby's first novel is a wincingly entertaining read - recollections perhaps triggered in readers of similar sheer awfulness destined to provoke shudders right up to the grave. Great fun - especially in the record shop with assistants taciturn Dick and garrulous, list-obsessed Barry. A particular treat for record buffs. Rob has an encyclopedic knowledge of decades of singles, views forever interesting and devastatingly pungent.
An appealing hero for whom we care - he hopefully nearing a stepping stone towards a sort of maturity.
on 6 May 2002
I started to read this book with a little scepticism, thinking that it was just going to drone on and on, but after the first couple of pages I was hooked. It tells the story of Rob, whose latest girlfriend has just left him and he is trying to figure out just where he's going wrong, as she's only the last in a fairly long line-up of relationship failures. The story is told by Rob himself and (being a woman myself) he obviously does so from a man's point of view. If ever I thought I'd never be able to understand men, this book brings me a lot closer to achieving that objective! The narrative often had me laughing out loud, recognising the (funny and often childish) traits so puzzlingly obvious in many of my male friends and partners! Having a knowledge of music and artistes greatly enhances enjoyment of this book, as the mention of forgotten favourites whisks you back in time, just as it does to Rob when he hears them. A brilliant read! Men, I understand you a little better, thanks to 'High Fidelity'!
on 8 July 2004
Whilst I realise that this book isn't going to click with everyone, for me it did. Almost all of Rob's thoughts, paranoia, reactions and thoughts were things I could relate to on some level - and at times it was really quite scary. It isn't going to teach women how to understand men, anymore than Bridget Jones teaches men to understand women. BUT it might teach anyone who reads it something about someone they know, and why they are as they are. Substitute the record shop and music with whatever obsessions you cling to, and all but the most small minded and stubborn people should be able to see some of themself reflected back. Not everyones cup of tea, but for those of us who connected with what Rob was thinking, clearly a masterpiece. Give it a try, if nothing else it is pretty funny throughout.