I just finished reading How to Be Good by Nick Hornby. The verdict is: I do recommend it if you have a weekend to kill on some light reading.
How to Be Good (as one would expect) tries to deliver an answer to that very question. And Hornby makes a number of insightfull observations about relationships, human nature and modern western socio-economic guilt (to name a few), and he does it in engaging prose with characters about whom (for the most part) I cared.
However, when it came down to it, the book didn’t deliver. The last sentence (actually, the last half of the last sentence) throws the reader spinning off into the void. Typical pop-modern ending. A nineties alternative song finishing on any chord but the resolution. Arty, don’t you know. This wouldn’t be such a let-down if the whole book wasn’t pointing in the other direction. Hornby was building toward a definite answer, and I was (for the most part) buying what he was selling. And at the last second, the product was switched for something that didn’t match the brochure. And it was a pretty decent brochure, so more’s the complaint.
In this I was reminded of The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder (which I read in highschool and now feel as if I ought to read again). I remember loving that book as well up until the end, when the padre gives us the summary. And it doesn’t match. I thought Wilder must have missed the first three quarters of his own book.
Despite this major shortcoming, How to Be Good was, well, a good book. Not as good as High Fidelity and About a Boy (by the way, the movie version of the former is better than the book, the movie version of the latter is [insert-favored-british-vulgarity-here]), but good.