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How to be Good
by Nick Hornby

Category: Fiction / General
244 pages; ISBN: 0-670-88887-7

Rating: 6/10  (Ratings explained)
Reviewer: Vanessa Elliott


It depends what you classify as good. I certainly read it quickly, so keen to get to the next page I often missed out words and paragraphs! But I made myself go back and read any parts I’d skipped. I wanted to give the book, author and my judgement a fair chance to impress.

The main character, Katie Carr, tells the reader why she is no longer happy with her life. Believing her good work as an inner city doctor earns her the right to an above average home-life, she asks if Motherhood and marriage to a sarcastic and self-confessed angry man is really worth it. But just when she thinks the answer is no, her husband undergoes a character transformation, gaining a social conscience and a patience akin to a clergyman. So her excuse to leave him is gone. He is no longer bad. But is his new found goodness a reason to stay and try to save her marriage?

The story in a nutshell; but it is really just padding for the book's reason d'etre: middle class, north London soul-searching at its finest. "What really constitutes being a good person" asks Hornby. "Does charity begin at home or do people with a social conscience need to look further afield?". "If you try to solve the bigger picture problems by personal deed, not political affirmation, do you necessarily neglect those most important to you", in this case the conservative (with a small c.) nuclear family?.

The conclusion of the book seemed to be : it’s ok not to be good all the time; either in the small or big picture of life. Guilt is inevitable and not something to be ashamed of. And maybe the book did serve its evangelical purpose. I don’t feel guilty for saying, at best, How to be Good, just wasn’t bad.



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