Book Group, Books

Book 178: High Fidelity – Nick Hornby

Hornby, Nick - High FidelityApparently this was the perfect time to read this novel. If I would’ve read it any sooner I probably would’ve been upset or bothered by it, but I wasn’t and it was quite enjoyable.

I would never have picked this book up on my own, but it is our February book for Books into Movies book group at the local library. I enjoyed the book more than the movie, shocker, but mostly because I didn’t see the need to move it from London to the US or the rather odd way they had the protagonist, Rob, interact with the camera/audience.

Primarily, this novel is about break-ups, but it’s also about reflecting on one’s life (and love life) in your mid-30s. Now I’m not quite there yet (two more years to rock out my 20s), but I can definitely sympathize with the Rob and questioning everything about every previous relationship and whether it all has to do with him. However, I REALLY hope I don’t go through this sort of soul-searching because I can only imagine how awkward it could be.

What I enjoyed most about the novel is what I hated most about the film: Rob talking directly to the audience/camera and his making lists. In the book the lists were great, they were thought out and explained brilliantly, I mean it starts with a list in the first line. In the movie, I felt, they only served to disrupt the flow of action. In addition to this, whereas in the book the narration seemed to take place in Rob’s head, in the film it was Rob talking to the camera regardless of where he was and it often left me thinking ‘Why is no one looking at him like he’s crazy?!’ I’m not sure how else they would’ve done it, but by combining the lists with him talking to the camera just came across as strange to me.

I won’t ruin the ending for you, but it was happy enough if somewhat expected. I did like the ending in the film incrementally better than the book, solely because it was more visually pleasing and you just had to smile.

Recommendation: As my first Nick Hornby book, I thought it was really good. I can see where others would be better and if I get the chance I’ll definitely check them out because I’ve enjoyed a lot of the films inspired by his books. I think it’s definitely worth a read, but you’ll REALLY enjoy this if you love music, the 1980s or heartbreak.

Opening Line: “My desert-island, all-time, top five most memorable split-ups, in chronological order: 1. Alison Ashworth 2. Penny Hardwick 3. Jackie Allen 4. Charlie Nicholson 5. Sarah Kendrew.”

Closing Line: “Tonight, for the first time ever, I can sort of see how it’s done.” (Whited out.)

Additional Quotes from High Fidelity
“You won’t change everything around like Jackie could. It’s happened too many times, to both of us; we’ll just go back to the friends and the pubs and the life we had before, and leave it at that, and nobody will notice the difference, probably.” (20)

“I agree that you need to meet somebody new in order to dispense with the old—you have to be incredibly brave and adult to pack something in just because it isn’t working very well. But you can’t go about it all half-heartedly.” (108)

“I put the phone down before she can say anything, to let her know I’m hurt, and then I want to phone her back and apologize, but I know I mustn’t. It’s like you can never do the right thing by someone if you’ve stopped sleeping with them. You can’t see a way back, or through, or round, however hard you try.” (233, emphasis mine)


20 thoughts on “Book 178: High Fidelity – Nick Hornby”

    1. For me so much of it had to do with the way it was filmed and him talking to the camera. If he would’ve been journaling or blogging or something it wouldn’t have been as noticeable for me.


  1. I’m glad you liked this book. I missed the London aspect in the film too, but the screenwriters and Cusack said they could really imagine Chicago replacing North London. Hornby mentioned it wasn’t the main issue and the overall story was well adapted I thought. I think Cusack did a good job. I am a fan of Hornby in generall, but I actually love his nonfiction writing and essays even more than his novels. He writes a wonderful column about books and reading which have been anthologized.


    1. I can see the replacement, but there were just enough replacements that it moved it too far from London for me. Oh I’ll have to check out his non-fiction at some point.


  2. I love Hornby! A Long Way Down is my favourite of his so far, I think. He also has four collections of a monthly column out now, all detailing what he reads and buys from month to month. Essentially a book blog turned book. I’ve only read the first, but I loved it.


  3. I’ve only seen the movie, but have been meaning to get to the book…eventually. I haven’t seen it in ages though. I didn’t know the book took place in a different country, nor did I know the ending was different! I may have to move this up on my to read list…


        1. I do. I mean it was a decision of the directors/script writers, but I think they thought it would appeal to a wider audience (the American Market). Think about if Fever Pitch would’ve stayed about football/soccer in the UK, no one in the US would’ve watched it really, but by switching it to the Red Sox, well, yeah.


          1. Huh, I didn’t know Fever Pitch was also a book and that it was in the UK! I learn something new every day!

            But that makes sense; soccer is not nearly as popular here as baseball.


  4. Haven’t seen the movie and doubt I will, but I have really enjoyed all Nick Hornby’s books, his style of humour is just what I like and the way he writes about place, especially places I now is part of what is so enjoyable.


  5. The Better Half loves this film. And silly me, I didn’t know it was based on a book. And I didn’t know it was based in London in the book. Now I’m curious.


    1. Haahaa does the better half love the film or John Cusack? I just couldn’t love the film, but I could appreciate him. You should definitely check it out as it gives a very interesting slice of British/London culture in the mid-to-late 80s.


  6. I had a brief and intense love affair with Nick Hornby. I would add to the above recommendations that Fever Pitch is an interesting read because it is mostly autobiographical. And his young adult novel Slam is really great. He didn’t write female lead characters for a while but I think he did a pretty great job in Juliet, Naked. Either that, or I’d read enough Hornby by that time that I reflected similarly to his written woman. Of his novels since High Fidelity I think Juliet, Naked is the most like it: immersive in music and relationships. However, I think About a Boy is my favourite.


    1. Oh I’ll have to check out Juliet, Naked, and I’ve heard that Fever Pitch is his most autobiographical. I’m not sure I’ll ever get around to reading more, but I definitely should read About a Boy because I loved the film so much!


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