How to be good review

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how to be good review

How to Be Good by Nick Hornby

In Nick Hornbys How to Be Good, Katie Carr is certainly trying to be. Thats why she became a GP. Thats why she cares about Third World debt and homelessness, and struggles to raise her children with a conscience. Its also why she puts up with her husband David, the self-styled Angriest Man in Holloway. But one fateful day, she finds herself in a Leeds parking lot, having just slept with another man. What Katie doesnt yet realize is that her fall from grace is just the first step on a spiritual journey more torturous than the interstate at rush hour. Because, prompted by his wifes actions, David is about to stop being angry. Hes about to become good--not politically correct, organic-food-eating good, but good in the fashion of the Gospels. And thats no easier in modern-day Holloway than it was in ancient Israel.

Hornby means us to take his title literally: How can we be good, and what does that mean? However, quite apart from demanding that his readers scrub their souls with the nearest available Brillo pad, he also mesmerizes us with that cocktail of wit and compassion that has become his trademark. The result is a multifaceted jewel of a book: a hilarious romp, a painstaking dissection of middle-class mores, and a powerfully sympathetic portrait of a marriage in its death throes. Its hard to know whether to laugh or cry as we watch David forcing his kids to give away their computers, drawing up schemes for the mass redistribution of wealth, and inviting his wifes most desolate patients round for a Sunday roast. But thats because How to Be Good manages to be both brutally truthful and full of hope. It wont outsell the Bible, but its a lot funnier. --Matthew Baylis


From Publishers Weekly
Kate, a doctor, wife and mother, is in the midst of a difficult decision: whether to leave or stay with her bitter, sarcastic husband David (who proudly writes a local newspaper column called The Angriest Man in Holloway). The long-term marriage has gone stale, but is it worth uprooting the children and the comfortable lifestyle? Then David meets a faith healer called Dr. Goodnews, and suddenly converts to an idealistic do-gooder: donating the childrens computer to an orphanage, giving away the familys Sunday dinner to homeless people and inviting runaways to stay in the guest room (and convincing the neighbors to do likewise). Barber gives an outstanding performance as Kate, humorously conveying her mounting irritation at having her money and belongings donated to strangers, her guilt at not feeling more generous and her hilarious desire for revenge. Barber brilliantly portrays each eccentric character: hippie-ish Goodnews, crusading David, petulant children and, poignantly, the hesitant, halting Barmy Brian, a mentally deficient patient of Kates who needs looking after. Barbers stellar performance turns a worthy novel into a must-listen event. Simultaneous release with Riverhead hardcover (Forecasts, June 25).

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Published 10.04.2019

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Good grief

Now, pay attention, because this one's just for you. Having neatly anatomised the dilemmas of Arsenal fans, half-hearted boyfriends and anxious father figures, Nick Hornby has now trained his finely honed brand of ironic earnestness - or earnest irony - on the infinitely nuanced agonies of Guardian readers. When Dr Katie Carr, the compromised narrator of his third novel, feels particularly daunted by the trench warfare of domestic life, she retreats to bed with this newspaper, the better to distract her mind with the unhappiness of strangers. In a moment of anguished intellectual vandalism, she even rips out an especially sad story - refugees holed up in an east London church - not in order to consider it more deeply at a later date, but to prevent it from inspiring her do-gooding husband David to even greater heights of selflessness and charity. But despite such a universal theme, it is nothing if not culturally specific: the modern world has been deliberately shrunk to encompass Guardian -reading professionals in north London. So disillusioned and grumpy is he that he writes a local newspaper column on the subject, berating pensioners for not having their change ready when they board buses and lambasting contemporary theatre.

Hornby means us to take his title literally: How can we be good, and what does that mean? However, quite apart from demanding that his readers scrub their souls with the nearest available Brillo pad, he also mesmerizes us with that cocktail of wit and compassion that has become his trademark.
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1. Don't make your review too short

Katie Carr. After more than 20 years of marriage and two children, Katie has had it: she's having an affair, feels intellectually dull and wishes her husband, David, would turn into a different person. Unfortunately for her, she gets her wish when David, a bitter, semi-employed intellectual who writes a column for a local newspaper subtitled "The Angriest Man in Holloway," becomes a secular saint. To spite her after an argument in which she suggests that they divorce, he goes to a dreadlocked faith-healer named DJ GoodNews. When GoodNews lays his hands on David, he suddenly becomes loving, concerned and utterly humorless. He gives money away, stops writing his column, organizes housing for the homeless inconveniently enough, with neighbors whose houses have empty rooms and invites GoodNews to move in.

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