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Sunday, March 7, 2010

How to Be Good - Nick Hornby

Read for the 2010 Complete Booker Challenge

Katie is unhappy in her marriage – not for any one reason, but for a million and one things that have built up over twenty years. Her husband is the self-professed “Angriest Man in Holloway”, and their life together has begun to wear on her. She’s even having an affair, but that isn’t the action that gets this story rolling, instead, it’s her husband’s conversion from being the angriest man on the street to trying to always do the right things and be a better person. It’s not a religious conversion, but more of a philosophical change, and it shakes Katie’s entire world view to the core.

I can’t say that I liked this book. That’s not to say it’s not a good book, but I found it deeply uncomfortable to read. I think we all like to delude ourselves into thinking that our long term relationships will always work out well in the end, and we always have it within our power to work out our differences. This book was a perfect storm of why that idea might be a lie.

There was also quite a bit of what I guess is best summed up as white liberal guilt (though it’s written by a British author, and I’m not sure if they have white liberal guilt in the same vein as we do here in America), and that also made me fairly uncomfortable while reading. I don’t want to not recommend this book to others, because I do think it’s worth reading, but I can totally see where it wouldn’t be many people’s cup of tea. It’s definitely thought-provoking, and I can see why it was on the Booker Long List and was a New York Times Notable book.

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