Charity Begins at Home in Hornby's How To Be Good
Rob Levy
7/13/2002 11:07:09 PM

Britain's Nick Hornby has established himself as a pop cultural icon. He writes about record stores. He writes about soccer, he reviews CDs for the New Yorker. He wears many hats, all of them pull his work into interesting new dimensions.

This is true with Hornby's latest, How To Be Good, [Riverhead Press] a funny, satirical look at the idea of 'charity beginning at home.'

Katie Carr is married to the Angriest Man In Holloway, her husband David. He is bitter, brooding and cynical. She becomes so unhappy and despondent that she has an affair and writes their marriage off. That is where it gets interesting. David suddenly becomes cheery, pleasant, thoughtful and charitable. Katie is awestruck. It is later revealed that David's turn is due to a healer/guru that he has met named DJ GoodNews. With GoodNews he establishes programs to fight hunger, homelessness and save the world. Her hubby has become a patsy and it drives Katie insane! Katie must juggle with her marriage, her conscience and her relationships with her two small children, all in the backdrop of Middle class working Britain.

Hornby uses this scenario to make some biting comments on actually living the liberal left lifestyle. Throughout the book he challenges liberal morays. Does rationalizing How To Be Good mean we need to live in poverty, have no possessions and be more open with our lives? Those are the central questions in this story.

This story is tinged with ironic commentary on marriage, society and popular culture. Hornby has once again nailed the feeling of people, lost and aimless. As an author, Hornby is sensitive and understanding of human nature. He has the pulse on how people think and how the world really operates. With this novel, he has pinned down the

problems of wanting to be better, fundamentally good and dealt with them.

How To Be Good is a well-written book, told from the first person narrative of a strong, struggling-but-unravelled female lead character. It also develops well and gives us interesting, layered characters who we become attached to easily.

The book is a quick, enticing read that draws the reader in, like most of Hornby's work. It's also got some fun surprises, such as throwing in one character from his most famous book, High Fidelity, to strengthen his novel's heart and spirit.

In How To Be Good, Hornby has crafted a story with wit, wisdom, insight and keen awareness of the human psyche. Hornby writes humanistic, powerful stories and this is no exception.


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