Jenine's Reviews > How to Be Good

How to Be Good by Nick Hornby
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's review
Jul 15, 2011

really liked it

The voice is pitch perfect. So easy to read, I snapped this up in three days. Funny, canny, with entertaining presentation of some ugly truths about the nuclear family.

::Spoilers start here::
Katie is going to sleep at a friend's apartment and thinking about why she wants to step away, have a time out from being David's wife. "That's all there is left, when you take away working hours and family suppers and family breakfasts: the time I get on my own is the time I would have spent being a wife, rather than being a mother or a doctor. (And God, how frightening, that those are the only options available. The only times when I am not performing one of those three roles is when I am in the bathroom.)"

I liked how Katie has moved to some self knowledge by the end of the book. She knows that she wants to be with her family, including her husband. She knows that it's important that they function and support each other as a family and not invite various acquaintances into that intimacy. She knows that she needs to read and take in art in order to nourish her mind. She's fairly clear that she will choose middle class complacency and the easy path rather than engaging with every issue that comes past. But she's still ignorant of her own values beyond these items. I thought the last line of the book was an atonal clash with what was a satisfying falling together at the end. But I grant that Katie has not widened her consciousness very far and has not done wrestling with her selfish ness and her vanity about being "good". So the blankness she sees beyond her family makes sense.
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Miette Thanks for your ideas about the ending. I found it really abrupt so your word 'atonal' summed it up beautifully. I finished the book yesterday so I'm still processing the ideas it raises. I don't generally reread books (except for a few classics) but this one may deserve another look.

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