34 of 37 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
This review is from: How to be Good (Paperback)
I'm one of those people - guys mostly, I suspect - who found High Fidelity hugely entertaining and the follow-up soppy and pretentious. So, for me, How to be Good is just a case of "I told you so".
The book is a quick and painless read, for sure. It's quick mainly because once you get bored with the long-winded style, you start skimming through the endless sentences of unexciting and repetitive social commentary, hunting for the next bit of dialogue or any kind of internal or external action that would propel the story. ("It has been raining and raining and raining - it has been raining harder than anyone can remember." I kid you not. This is a sentence produced by the once-great Nick Hornby.)
To have a female protagonist is a clever idea, but while you're at it, why not make her interesting? As it is, the Katie character seems just an excuse for literary self-indulgence. You have a talkative female lead, so you're entitled to gigantic, rambling paragraphs, right? Wrong. What is boring and pointless in real life is boring and pointless on paper. I think a writer should seriously consider pressing the delete button when he has to insert a breathless "So anyway" into his prose to put a brake on runaway inner monologue. (And in case anyone thinks I just don't "get" it because I'm not from the right nationality or social group or postal district, well - I didn't need to be British to enjoy High Fidelity, did I?)
How to be Good is a painless read, too, and I don't think it should be. After all, it's supposed to tackle serious issues such as divorce, infidelity, unhappy children, and, of course, how to be good. Alas, I felt shortchanged. Hornby only skims the surface, retreating behind his funny-man mannerisms every time things start to get a little gloomy. For all his pretensions of being a serious author, he still can't write about sorrow and loss without trying to make it somehow more palatable for an imagined average reader. (In Hollywood, they call toned-down comedies like this "bitter-sweet".) Katie's suicidal brother, for example, has great potential as a character with real-life dimensions, yet he ends up being just a sketch like everyone else.
So, at best, this book is Intimacy Lite, with lots and lots and lots and lots of words pretending to be insights into the human condition ("Getting married and having a family is like emigrating" - that kind of stuff), yet, obviously, with none of Kureishi's wit.