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How to Be Good Paperback – April 30, 2002

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

In Nick Hornby's How to Be Good, Katie Carr is certainly trying to be. That's why she became a GP. That's why she cares about Third World debt and homelessness, and struggles to raise her children with a conscience. It's also why she puts up with her husband David, the self-styled Angriest Man in Holloway. But one fateful day, she finds herself in a Leeds parking lot, having just slept with another man. What Katie doesn't yet realize is that her fall from grace is just the first step on a spiritual journey more torturous than the interstate at rush hour. Because, prompted by his wife's actions, David is about to stop being angry. He's about to become good--not politically correct, organic-food-eating good, but good in the fashion of the Gospels. And that's no easier in modern-day Holloway than it was in ancient Israel.

Hornby means us to take his title literally: How can we be good, and what does that mean? However, quite apart from demanding that his readers scrub their souls with the nearest available Brillo pad, he also mesmerizes us with that cocktail of wit and compassion that has become his trademark. The result is a multifaceted jewel of a book: a hilarious romp, a painstaking dissection of middle-class mores, and a powerfully sympathetic portrait of a marriage in its death throes. It's hard to know whether to laugh or cry as we watch David forcing his kids to give away their computers, drawing up schemes for the mass redistribution of wealth, and inviting his wife's most desolate patients round for a Sunday roast. But that's because How to Be Good manages to be both brutally truthful and full of hope. It won't outsell the Bible, but it's a lot funnier. --Matthew Baylis --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Kate, a doctor, wife and mother, is in the midst of a difficult decision: whether to leave or stay with her bitter, sarcastic husband David (who proudly writes a local newspaper column called "The Angriest Man in Holloway"). The long-term marriage has gone stale, but is it worth uprooting the children and the comfortable lifestyle? Then David meets a faith healer called Dr. Goodnews, and suddenly converts to an idealistic do-gooder: donating the children's computer to an orphanage, giving away the family's Sunday dinner to homeless people and inviting runaways to stay in the guest room (and convincing the neighbors to do likewise). Barber gives an outstanding performance as Kate, humorously conveying her mounting irritation at having her money and belongings donated to strangers, her guilt at not feeling more generous and her hilarious desire for revenge. Barber brilliantly portrays each eccentric character: hippie-ish Goodnews, crusading David, petulant children and, poignantly, the hesitant, halting Barmy Brian, a mentally deficient patient of Kate's who needs looking after. Barber's stellar performance turns a worthy novel into a must-listen event. Simultaneous release with Riverhead hardcover (Forecasts, June 25).

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Riverhead Books (April 30, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1573229326
  • ISBN-13: 978-1573229326
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.9 x 7.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (337 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #155,451 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Nick Hornby is the author of the novels A Long Way Down, How to Be Good (a New York Times bestseller), High Fidelity, and About a Boy, and of the memoir Fever Pitch. He is also the author of Songbook, a finalist for a National Book Critics Circle Award, and editor of the short-story collection Speaking with the Angel. He is also the recipient of the American Academy of Arts and Letters E. M. Forster Award, and the Orange Word International Writers London Award 2003.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

59 of 64 people found the following review helpful By "georgepartington" on May 8, 2002
Format: Paperback
I thoroughly enjoyed How to Be Good. Another great read from Nick Hornby, I thought, full of admiration for such a wonderful talent. Then I looked at the reviews on Amazon.com. I couldn't believe how mixed they were.
Then a pattern emerged. The ones that hated it usually started out with how much they loved his earlier work. Then they would criticize the two-dimensional characters and the unbelievable plot. Finally, for the more pretentious, there's an invitation to read "real" literature, like Dostoyevsky.
To sum up, how dare Hornby write a book about something other than "How to Grow Up"? And how dare he introduce characters that aren't "realistic"? (these people would criticize ET because it was unrealistic).
In answer to all those one- and two-star reviews on this page: I'm shocked, SHOCKED, that Nick Hornby wrote a breezy novel about contemporary adults and their everyday problems - you know, little things like trying to find satisfaction as we get older and our lives have settled into well-worn grooves - and not about the aging, but still immature, male.
And instead of a really cool protagonist, we get a weary and confused narrator. So unrealistic to be so flawed. And who can believe in a trippy faith healer and a suddenly transformed house husband? Yet all of the characters spoke and acted in ways that seemed utterly real - in the context of the novel.
I will admit that the novel seemed more like a first draft than a fully realized work, but that doesn't mean it's not worthwhile. The ending felt rushed, while also containing some lovely writing about the importance of reading, as well as a moving final image (perhaps a hint of the greatness Hornby may yet achieve). But that's Hornby - even his lesser efforts contain gold.
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27 of 28 people found the following review helpful By never can read enough on October 8, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I have never read a Nick Hornby before and received this one as a birthday gift. Started out with a lot of promise and then just COMPLETELY lost steam. He didn't follow through on any of the issues he raised, they all just sort of faded away.
Also- I felt like I was reading a screenplay instead of a book, that Hornby was so obviously angling to create the film that will presumably be created from this, rather than a book. It was as gimmicky as "Liar, Liar" or "What Women Want" in its plot-what happens when the crankiest guy in the world becomes a 21st century hippie? Unfortunately, nothing happens, really. I was very disappointed in this one- it was a chore to finish.
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26 of 28 people found the following review helpful By "asiaj" on April 4, 2002
Format: Hardcover
I adored High Fidelity and About a Boy. Hornby is a genius at drawing characters who are lovable despite their flaws--because, let's face it, most of us are flawed and hope to be loved anyway. Yet with Katie Carr, Hornby has managed to paint a character completely devoid of feeling and totally self-absorbed. She hates her husband, yet won't leave him and continues to belittle him every chance she gets. Does she stay with him for the sake of the children? I wonder, since she seems to dislike her children as well. While funny in parts (parts that are few and far between), How to Be Good left me depressed and wishing for the old Nick Hornby, author of books that are seriously funny, hopeful, and believable.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By stephanie-ann on July 12, 2003
Format: Hardcover
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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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Frederick M. Segrest on May 14, 2002
Format: Hardcover
This one is better than the average novel, but pales in comparison to Nick Hornby's other fare. I can't really imagine this one being made into a movie, although it likely will be. Starts out funny, but becomes somewhat preachy and misses its mark. The characters aren't quite as believeable as Hornby's other ones, likely because he is trying to write from a woman's viewpoint and is out of his element. Read this one after you have loved all of Hornby's other novels and be mildly entertained but somewhat disappointed.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By "a-squared2" on November 7, 2001
Format: Hardcover
sigh...after reading Nick Hornby's High Fidelity and About A Boy my expectations were that he incorporate the same brilliant wit diplayed into How to Be Good. I really gave the book a chance, hoping that with each new chapter I would become totally engrossed. It didn't happen. What did happen was a far-fetched 360 degree character twist and an unbelievable story. I stuck with it and read the WHOLE book, shaking my head and wondering why I wasted my time.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Leon Gellert on April 16, 2002
Format: Hardcover
This is not the kind of novel I have come to expect from Nick Hornby. The premise was interesting and as always it is an easy and enjoyable read, but there was nothing special about this book. There is no sign of the Hornby brilliance that one can see in High Fidelity or even his short from Speaking with the Angel (Nipple Jesus). Of course the book has its moments when Hornby hits a point right on the button, but it is not sustained through out most of the novel. I felt completely unsatisfied with the ending of the book, which was completely anti-climactic. Hopefully this is not a trend that will be continued in Hornby's books. I think I need to read High Fidelity again just so I can remember How Good Hornby can be.
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