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4.3 out of 5 stars
High Fidelity
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
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.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
This book is so 'human', not muddled by all the pretensions of the commercial world. This book tells a story of, well, to be honest a rather sad man, it explains WHY men, (and women), can be the way they are. Be that neurotic and anally retentive about their record collection or something more serious. (IS there anything more serious??? The character in this book wouldn't think so!) High Fidelity is full of comedy, although occasionally a little dark, and is a fantastic read all the way! I finished this book begrudgingly, turning the last few pages slower and taking every word in like a slow deep breath - when you don't want it to end it must be a good! Highly recommended to those ladies who don't understand their boyfriends and would like to, and recommended to absolutely anybody else who like s a bit of truth in their books!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 15 February 2005
I was quite uncertain when I was deciding whether to buy High Fidelity, given that from the other reviews that I had read it was a book that had been either loved or hated by the reviewers. I took a chance as I loved the film, but usually the book holds much more and goes much deeper. I am so glad I took a chance with this book.
The first statement that I have to make is that it usually takes me a while to read through my books, I am just a naturally slow reader. Though with High Fidelity I read it from cover to cover in the space of a week. In terms of sheer enjoyment and accessibility, I would put High Fidelity as one of my top five books!
The story focuses around a thirty-something Londoner who I find to represent the male stereotype of the grown man living as a child - somebody who has yet to get over the emotional predilections of a sixteen-year-old. Rob is a character who has devoted his life to the study/criticism of music; perhaps accidentally he had grown to be somebody whose life has run into a dead-end. The story begins as he is dumped by his girlfriend, throwing an already bleak life into further disarray.
Throughout reading this I have found several sections where I have been able to relate to his paranoia and worries, things that all seem to have some bearing, however limited, on the modern man. Overall, this is a story that deals with the worries that many people can relate to - rejection, loss of motivation, isolation, as well as questioning what it is that really attracts us to each other. All of which is told through a highly humorous and casual medium which makes what could be construed as a heavy subject quite simple and easy to relate to. There is a large amount of music and popular culture wrapped up in the body of the story, although I don't think that its necessary to know about the music that Rob cites nor the films he refers to.
I loved this book - if you want something that can make you giggle and laugh, yet understand and make you think - but this right now!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
It's kind of comforting to have a book that men can call their own, and whilst this fairly, short, very accessible novel by Nick Hornby isn't going to win a sweeping amount of awards for being high literature, it is a book packed with very astute and clever insights and characterisations. Hornby's novel centres aroung protagonist Rob Fleming who has just broken up with long term girlfriend Laura, and how he is (not) dealing with it. It is a novel all about liminality, a novel of transition. An adult novel (finally) about growing up without being patronising or condescending with moments and characters that make you jump up suddenly and go 'I know someone like that!' or 'That's exactly right'. This is Hornby's gift, he textualises the most ambivalent emotional states of being and writes them down in easily identifiable form. Rob is both endearing and annoying. He can be sweet and also an utter a***hole. It is also a novel about music and its changing states. Rob's job as the store owner of Championship Vinyl provides a metaphorical backdrop for his emotional life - his inability to move with the times in terms of musical production parallels his inability to 'allow for things to happen' to himself. Supported by a wealth of interesting accomplices (in particular his co-workers: the wonderully obnoxious Barry and the beautifuly crafted, incredibly shy and nervous Dick) Rob provides a fundamentally flawed everyman to express male neuroses and anxieties that Hornby explores. No it is not a book for everyone, and I know several female friends of mine who found it rather misogynistic, but my defence of it would be that finally an author has created a novel using a that has been monopolised by female authors for decades, even centuries. With so many books out their detailing the female inner monologue and their side of emotional issues, it is rather refreshing to find a book describing the male side of that coin.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
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!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 23 July 2001
I came to this book in the wrong order, having seen the film first. I had always been slightly suspicious of of Nick Hornby as part of the trashy novel genre that has been proliferate in recent years, but the film made me see I might be wrong. So I bought the book, and ended up reading it in one night. It is fabulous, surpasses the film and best of all, has originality. How refreshing to read a book which doesn't simply marry everyone off at the end, whilst avoiding being depressing. It's not so much the ending, as how it gets there, and the best passages are the bits that close chapters, full of truths about modern life. Hornby has an awful lot to answer for, he and Helen Fielding between them being the fore founders of the terrible excuse for 'literature' (In the loosest sense of the word) which has begun appearing in supermarkets, but in truth, it is simply because these authors do not have the talent to emulate them. This is the original and the best, and I can't reccomend it highly enough. Within a fortnight of reading it, I bought (and read) the entire works of Nick Hornby. Buy this book. And if you really want to understand where it is coming from, read Fever Pitch as well.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
"High Fidelity" is Nick Hornby's first novel and was first published in 1995. It was later adapted for the big screen and starred John Cusak, Jack Black and Lisa Bonet. (The film was set in Chicago, though, rather than London).

The story is told by Rob Fleming, the thirty-something owner of a record shop called "Championship Vinyl". The shop, he claims, specialises in catering for the `serious' record collector - unfortunately, if sales are anything to go by, there aren't too many serious record collectors left. He is a bit of a trainspotter when it comes to music and his own record collection - which he tends to reorganise in times of emotional stress. His staff consists of the somewhat obnoxious Barry and the slightly nerdy Dick (one of the book's more likeable characters). Barry thinks and talks largely in lists - his top five Dustin Hoffman movies or the top ten albums made by blind musicians, for example - and it's a trait that Rob seems to have picked up to a degree. As the book opens, Rob has just been dumped by his girlfriend and he begins with his top five dumpings. (Rob has always, it seems, been the dumpee, rather than the dumper). Laura, the girlfriend who provided him with his most recent dumping, doesn't make the list.

The book sees Rob trying to work through his post-dumping traumas. He knows he hasn't been innocent and blameless, but that doesn't make the split any easier to deal with. The highs and lows include Marie LaSalle (an American folk-country singer on a small independent label and the focus of a post-breakup crush) and a phone call from one of Laura's friends, who mentions that she doesn't think much of `this Ian guy'. Unfortunately, Rob hadn't known anything about `this Ian guy'. It's something that sends him into a horrible `what-does-it-all-mean' routine that sees him attempting to contact the five women on his top five dumping list.

One of the professional reviewers that sometimes gets blurbed - Elizabeth Young, from the Guardian - mentioned that "the most frequent response to High Fidelity is `Oh God, I know people just like that!'." She's not too far off the mark - at times (though thankfully, not all the time) the person I knew who was just like that...was me. While it may make you squirm at times, it is also a very funny book and is absolutely recommended.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
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.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
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.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
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.
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