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   High Fidelity

High Fidelity
by Nick Hornby

Category: Fiction / General
253 pages; ISBN: 0575400188

Rating: 8/10  (Ratings explained)
Reviewer: Dale


The first novel from "Fever Pitch" author Nick Hornby which explores male obsessions and anxieties through the eyes of a record collector in relationship difficulties.

Nick Hornby`s second book following his acclaimed football fan`s memoir "Fever Pitch" is a novel about the thirtysomething author of a failing record shop who is making a mess of his personal life. Although Hornby has been keen to deny a close relationship between the central protagonist Rob Fleming and himself it`s not difficult to discern that Rob`s ruminations on relationships are coming from the same pen that analysed its owner`s Arsenal obsession in the previous book. Also the numerous popular music allusions in the novel are so consistently apt that one suspects Hornby is downloading another of his obsessions here.

The action (such as there is) takes place over a month or so following the walkout of Rob`s girlfriend Laura. Nothing particularly earth-shattering occurs, apart from the death of Laura`s father, which gives Rob/Hornby enough space in which to reflect on male attitudes to sex, marriage, filial loyalty, the ageing process and death. Rob appears to be on the cusp between responsible adulthood and an arrested adolescence which manifests itself in petty cultural snobbery (reinforced by his loser assistants) and an obsession with making lists.

The latter is a recurrent theme throughout the book. Rob`s initial reaction to Laura`s departure is to compile a list of the five most formative rejections he has suffered and tellingly he derives some comfort from Laura`s failure to chart. Rob later decides to track down these former girlfriends as a cathartic exercise which leads to an amusing party episode if no great conclusion.

I found that parts of it were not entirely credible. I know a dozen or so bachelor record collectors and I doubt that collectively they get as much sex as Rob does. His explanation - " I ask questions" is unconvincing and not borne out by his behaviour in the course of the novel. Nor was I convinced that a successful City lawyer like Laura would give Rob so many chances given the nature of his misdemeanours.

Nevertheless the book is well-written with nicely-balanced switches between humour and pathos. Hornby also has a highly effective trick of throwing in a surprise line at the end of a chapter which compels you to read on and prevents things becoming too predictable.

With his over-use of the f**k word - and I`m no prude - and liberal sprinkling of post-76 pop cultural references, Hornby is writing for his own generation and the book will have little appeal to most over-50s. For those like me who come in below that it`s a very entertaining and thought-provoking read.


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