Book Review: How to Be Good

How to Be Good
How to Be Good by Nick Hornby

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Huh. I’m not sure what to say about this one. I heard about it somewhere, maybe in a writing book, so I picked it up. Turns out it is from the same author as About a Boy and High Fidelity so I was ready for the British thing. It reminded me, quite a lot, of Bridget Jones, or Love, Actually. So much I could see Renee Zellweger (who is actually not in Love, Actually at all, but should be) talking the entire time I read it.

That might have been what kept me going. The shift from Shadow of the Wind to this was a rough one. Talk about a mood change. And How to Be Good‘s main character’s nattering on about her miserable husband and (view spoiler) was really more than I could take. But still, Renee Zellweger was there narrating, and I was in holiday Britain (no holidays in the book, but I fill in my own blanks), and I was dropping into Brit humor mode, so I gave it a little more time.

I’m glad I did. Nick Hornby did a great job of tackling a prickly subject with compassion and humor. What makes good people good? How can we be good? The obstacles are tremendous, the odds stacked against us at every corner, and in the end, we don’t really want to be good. We want what we have, and sometimes more, and we don’t want to be bothered by too much demanding our attention, our time, or our money. God forbid they want our money.

Hornby explores the feelings that no one will admit to having, the irresolvable conflicts within our skins, and the questions we just don’t want to look too deeply at, lest they affect changes that we’re not ready for.

A brave perspective, an irreverent comedy, and a challenging call for change, or at least enough introspection to know what we’re avoiding. And it was a speedy read. And it was British, which is fun to live vicariously, if only for a few days. I think that’s as long as I could live British.

Worth a peek, and worth plowing through the frustrating starting point.

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