How to be Good by Nick Hornby


I must be one of the only two people who, until now, has not read How to Be Good, and if you’re reading this review, you must be the other. Years wasted! The book is a cracker.

Katie is a good person, in her opinion: she is a doctor, provides for her family and has mild liberal views. Her husband David is the devil: opinionated, cynical and lazy. But David undergoes a sudden transformation, and it seems like it is he who ends up teaching Katie how to be good.

His metamorphosis starts with the shock of Katie asking for divorce. She is shocked by it herself. It isn’t because she is having an affair with Stephen, it is rather than she is emotionally spent. And that’s not good. David finds a guru in the person of DJ GoodNews, a bit of a charlatan, a bit of a saviour. Instead of fighting Katie for the house, for the custody of their children or even for the survival of their marriage, David goes about giving everything away and saving those less fortunate than himself, often at his family’s expense. Though you get a sneaky feeling that this may be the only way of saving his marriage since he has burned all other bridges…

David transformation and Katie’s reaction to it is wonderfully presented. From reacting to David’s antics Katie moves to introspection. And she is learning to let go of certain things and to hang on to others. But the beauty of this book lies in the fact that it is free from the so-called absolute truths or values and free from didacticism. Instead, it bristles with humour and sharp observations of the middle classes, mid-life crises and all that middle-of-the-road fluff our lives are stuffed with.

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