How to Be Good is the third book by Nick Hornby that I have read. The other two, High Fidelity and 31 Songs, were insightful, well written, and hilarious. Both happen to also be about music. 31 Songs is a collection of essays about, well, 31 songs. High Fidelity uses the protagonist's obsession with pop music to discuss his relationships with women. I have not read the book, but the movie version of About a Boy also contains a similar musical theme. Music is obviously something very dear to the heart of the writer. With How to Be Good, Hornby seems to be making a real attempt to steer clear from this area. In fact, the narrator/main character, Katie Carr, mentions that her life is completely devoid of music, books, and movies. Unfortunately, her life and this book is almost completely devoid of what makes Nick Hornby novels so good.
In choosing to leave his normal type of fiction, Hornby chose to write this novel in the first person from the perspective of a middle aged, middle class, female doctor. Where as he can write articulately, with great perspective, about a middle aged male obsessed with music, Hornby has no true understanding of how woman doctor might feel. This character comes of sounding whiny, self-important, rattlebrained, and false. The plot comes off so implausible I spent most of the novel groaning for help.
Katie Carr tries to live a good life. She became a doctor to help people, tries to love her husband and raise her two children right. Yet by the books beginning her life is thoroughly messed up. Problems with her husband David, the self-professed "Angriest man in Holloway" have been going on for years, and her she is no longer sure of how she feels about her own children. In fact she is ready for a divorce and a new life. However, before she is granted this, her husband , healed by some mystical healer changes things around. Instead of the sarcastic, angry man he has always been, suddenly he is a kind, generous, make the world better kind of guy. The crux of the story is Katie trying to come to terms with this change. Having a hateful husband was horrible, but she is not sure having a super husband is much better. What follows is a series of mildly amusing, if highly suspect, adventures, and a great deal of preaching.