This is the third Hornby book I’ve read, and they seem to get successively weaker. About a Boy was really funny; High Fidelity was quite good, How to be Good was really not worth reading. Repetitive and predictable plot, where nothing particularly exciting happens, and the small things that are allowed to happen just fizzle out soon after. A lot of words are spent on the thoughts of the female protagonist whose inner life actually isn’t particularly gripping. No surprises from any of the characters, who are generally flat and stereotypical. I couldn’t bring myself to care for any of them.
I’m not giving much away by saying that the book is about a man who is transformed by a meeting, and thereafter goes out of his way to be good. Only he does it without really consulting his family, and without thinking very much about his actions. Inviting homeless people to stay in your house without any warning is generally a bad idea, and you’d think that an intelligent adult would realize that. The wife is obviously upset, and the children’s loyalties are split between the parents. And so on.
But the book doesn’t do anything with this idea. It’s a superficial book about a topic that a more thoughtful writer could actually do something great with. Yes, the book (or rather David, the man in question) talks a lot about how we should be spending more time and effort doing good. Yet his actions are so clearly quixotic and unrealistic, and his wife’s objections are even less well-considered than his own arguments. Neither of them says anything fully convincing, so the whole theme of Being Good becomes an empty gesture, just to keep the plot going.
I couldn’t be bothered to read all of it, and only just skimmed through the last third.
Its only redeeming quality is that I got it as a free supplement with a magazine I once bought to read during a long tube ride. I have no strong memories of the magazine, but I believe I enjoyed it more than this book.