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3.1 out of 5 stars
How to Be Good
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Showing 1-10 of 36 reviews(2 star)show all reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on November 28, 2003
...For starters if you were a fan of previous Hornby gems like 'High Fidelity,' and 'About A Boy,' my bet is that you will ultimately find this to be a crap read. The book spends the bulk of its pages locked up in the mind of the protagonist as she internally tussles back and forth on the merits and negatives of ethics, morals, familial strife and approaching mid-life crisis. Some readers may find such internal dialogue to be somewhat captivating, however, less then 50 pages into the book I found myself highly annoyed by the whininess and lack of pro-active action of our protagonist and practically forced myself to read through the remainder of this novel.
With that being said, the book does improve the further you go with the occassional vintage Hornby moments of subtle humour and crafty dialogue but even these few redeeming moments surely do not justify the time required to slog through this book. While Hornby's prowess as a writer is certainly not in question, his experiment in capturing middle-aged fem angst certainly is. Nice, bold experiment on his part though.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on December 31, 2003
... by giving the book away to the nearest charity store. I received this novel as a Christmas present. It was a short read, at least, but a cringingly bad one. At least it is only a few hours from New Year now, so I can say that the extreme displeasure of wading through this pointless novel will soon be relegated to 'last year'. This book was so badly done I wouldn't know where to begin describing it. Let's just summarize by saying novels usually benefit from having a plot, and slightly credible characters (not women protagonists speaking like 40-year-old men... or little boys speaking like 40-year-old men either). I hope someone at the thrift store can find a use for it. Toilet paper, perhaps?
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on July 4, 2004
This was an interesting premise, and in some cases very funny. But it raved on too much. I understand that Hornby was trying to get across some deep ideas, but a good storyteller will do that though the story. There was too much inner monologue here. However, the description of a long marriage was good, if a bit depressing.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on July 12, 2003
Having been a Hornby fan for quite sometime, I snapped this up when it first came out and was eager to tear into it! The story is, conceptually, very intriguing, and starts off in true Hornby fashion, a delightful read. However, as the plot winds on, the story and the concept fall flat. I had to force myself through to the end, and was left very disappointed.
Of course, I will most certainly read whatever he puts out next. Besides, everyone deserves a good flop now and then. Kudos for the effort, and high hopes that what is to follow far surpasses this one!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on October 5, 2003
I'd hate to think that this could be someone's first time reading a book by Nick Hornby because I doubt they would give his other much better books a chance. For about 3/4 of the book I just felt annoyed at all of the characters. Do yourself a favor and check out Fever Pitch or High Fidelity instead.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on June 24, 2003
I'm a huge Nick Hornby fan but I couldn't fully enjoy this book no matter how hard I tried. Perhaps it's because I hold Hornby up to higher standards than other authors but this book just seemed flat and hurried. The idea and premise of the book was good but Hornby just couldn't seem to pull it all together to make it work. This is not classic Hornby but it was a nice try. I won't hold it against him and I'll purchase the next book in the hopes that it's another "High Fidelity" or "About A Boy." He's a great writer...just don't judge him by this book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on October 14, 2003
I loved Hornby's previous three novels - this one is not nearly as good. I agree with reviews that point out his inability to write through a female protagonist (his other books were all told through men). Also, the unpretentious, almost hipster, style that he utilized throughout "About a Boy," "High Fidelity," and "Fever Pitch" is missing - and that was a major part of his appeal!
I still think he's a great author - and I plan on reading whatever he puts out in the future. Just don't start with this one.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on September 15, 2002
The opening of "How to Be Good" is everything a satire should be: extremely funny, engaging, and provocative. Hornby has posited an interesting premise: what if you got what you wished for--in this case, what if your angry, curmudgeonly spouse met a dubious messiah and suddenly and miraculously became (morally) "good"? How would your life be affected? How would you react? Would it really be what you wished for; would it really be all that "good"?
In spite of its subject matter, however, "How to Be Good" is not a work of psychological fiction. Short of a severe trauma (or a trip to Damascus), humans don't undergo complete character transformations overnight. Asking what the world would be like if we could alter our personalities without provocation is like asking what would happen if, tomorrow, we could suddenly be invisible. In effect, like H. G. Wells, Hornby has written a social commentary disguised as a fantasy novel, a fable of modern suburbia.
But Hornby commits the cardinal sin of satirical writing: the rest of the novel--after the first 25 pages or so--is only occasionally humorous, and most of the humor derives from situational absurdity rather than wit or substance. Presented from the wife's point of view, the narrative lacks cleverness or even drollness, and it quickly degenerates into whining protest (the statement "I'm a good person, I'm a doctor . . ." is repeated in various forms at least fifty times) and monotonous self-analysis ("It could well be that I am going mad; or, on the other hand, that I am simply confused and unhappy; or, on the third hand, that I know exactly what I want but cannot bring myself to do it because of all the pain it would cause . . ."). Hornby seems to have a rather uncharitable view of how women think; his caricature borders on misogyny--although, admittedly, the men in this book do not fare much better.
Hornby seems to want very badly to write a novel with a Message. "How to Be Good," unfortunately, is as profound as Richard Bach's "Illusions" and its reluctant messiah--and just about as subtle in its Hallmark piousness. He scatters ill-conceived sermons at various random targets--liberalism, popular culture, intellectualism--and even though the sanctimonious tone is frequently unbearable, it's rarely quite clear what he is trying to say. In the end, "How to Be Good" is a morality tale without much of a moral.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on August 26, 2002
The NY Times called this a notable book. Not able is a better match. Nick Hornby has devised a good plot with surgeon wife Katie having an affair after a falling out with husband David. It seems that David has recognized that he is basically a rotten S.O.B. and is going to change his life. In doing so David changes so much from the man that Katie married that she can no longer stand him.
Mr. Hornby becomes too repetitive in his descriptions of Katie's dilemma. How many ways can you read that Katie is mad and wants out. Hornby fails to establish an emotional attachment with any of his characters.
Hornby is quite humerous in many of his conversations and this is partly what kept me reading. Sentence structure and word flow is good. Plot is average and the story becomes boring because of the repitition.
I think this book did reflect many of the feelings of those on the brink of divorce. If that's you, read and get some commiseration. If not, there are a lot of better books out there right now. Maybe put this on the shelf and get to it later.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on July 23, 2002
Among my favorite reads are "About a Boy" and "High Fidelty." And, truthfully, Hornby writes just as well in "How to Be Good." His characterizations provoke reaction, the depth of Katie's thoughts are very real, and the wry, sarcastic humor is on target.
Even so, I did not enjoy this book. Finishing it was just a hair less than a struggle. I don't necessarily read to feel good all the time (though that is among the reasons), but this book _really_ doesn't make the reader feel good. It's downright depressing and frustrating. I wanted to shake Katie so many times; admonish her for not standing up for herself more.
Then again, I also wanted to shake her for relying so heavily on her profession to make her "good." It is highly annoying. But I suspect that is part of Hornby's point, so I won't go any further down that road.
A talented writer, yes. An interesting, though somewhat dubious storyline. Worth your time? Perhaps. Unfortunately only you can answer that question.
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