Summary from Goodreads:
“It has been said often enough that baby boomers are a television generation, but the very funny novel High Fidelity reminds that in a way they are the record-album generation as well. This funny novel is obsessed with music; Hornby’s narrator is an early-thirtysomething English guy who runs a London record store. He sells albums recorded the old-fashioned way—on vinyl—and is having a tough time making other transitions as well, specifically adulthood. The book is in one sense a love story, both sweet and interesting; most entertaining, though, are the hilarious arguments over arcane matters of pop music.
Hornby’s first novel, an international bestseller and instantly recognized by critics and readers alike as a classic, helps to explain men to women, and men to men. Rob is good on music: he owns a small record shop and has strong views on what’s decent and what isn’t. But he’s much less good on relationships. In fact, he’s not at all sure that he wants to commit himself to anyone. So it’s hardly surprising that his girlfriend decides that enough is enough.”
It’s how the story began that instantly got me. Before I even knew the narrator’s name, I already knew six women in his life (and I was like, oh, so maybe that’s why the title’s like that, haha). After several lines, I then knew that I was going to be reading about break-ups and heartbreak and sadness, themes that weren’t really new to me, but this time I’d be reading a man’s perspective, and this is somewhat new to me. This was my first time to read Nick Hornby and I was really very interested, considering that this was my first foray into contemporary guy literature — if I was allowed to refer to this book as such. What woman doesn’t want to know how a man thinks?
High Fidelity is about thirty-five year-old Rob who owns a losing record shop in London and is obsessed with music. His music obsession is such that he considers (and judges) people according to their record collection and pretty much associates everything in his life with music. Then his girlfriend left him and he begins to look more seriously into his life and his past relationships, trying to figure out where his life is headed.
I know a lot of people who share the same passion for music as Rob does. I had been that, too, several years back, (but admittedly not with so much vigor and passion as Rob does) way before real life distracted me with even more bigger troubles than knowing what’s the latest music video shown on MTV. And for me, there is nothing wrong with that. Music is one of life’s best gifts, and this book has a lot of music and songs in it. In lists of fives of various categories. It was fun reading these lists and the witty banter among Rob, Dick, and Barry, dishing each other’s musical preferences. And for the first several chapters I was really enjoying the story, tolerating Rob’s whining and childish complaints. It was the humor that carried me through. When I got to the middle parts, though, I started to feel tired and really annoyed, especially when American singer-songwriter Marie showed up. You know, it’s like you keep laughing at the same scene over and over again and your funny bone finally becomes sore? It’s like that.
So, my annoyance grew and overshadowed the funny parts that not even Dick and Barry can remedy. In my head, I was countering all of Rob’s complaints and pointing out what he should and should not do. I was making a litany of how he should live his life as a mature adult and try to man up and make manly decisions and all that. I started to sound like a nagging mother and I started to hate myself so I hated Rob even more, haha!
Rob is lonely and insecure and wimpy and childish and…well, lonely. But to whom/what should he attribute his loneliness except to himself? He doesn’t even make the effort to get close to his parents. And the people who want to get close to him he immediately shoots down with a sarcastic remark. All along, I thought all this angst is for teens only. And what about all that insecurity regarding his bedroom performances? Do thirtysomething males really think like that? Please tell me there is nothing wrong in the universe by saying “no.”
It didn’t help that I didn’t like Laura as well. She was as confused as Rob and that thing she did with the neighbor upstairs wasn’t exactly praiseworthy. I was even rooting for Rob to get on with his life after the separation and I wasn’t totally sold on the idea of them getting back together.
Anyway, despite my growing annoyance and slowly losing my temper, I was still hoping for a grand turnaround from Rob. I was looking forward to the time that he would finally gather his wits and make life-altering decisions. Ahh, but all I got was more whining and whimpering, enough to make me want to pull my hair out and go “AAAGGHH!” out of sheer frustration. That was not the ending that I actually expected…and wanted.
I am inclined to label High Fidelity as a coming-of-age story, or maybe it really is. It is a story of a thirty-five year old man who finally decides to come to terms with the fact that he is no longer ten years old. I have no complaints with the writing, however, and I am still interested in reading more books by Nick Hornby. At least, I enjoyed the British slang. It’s just that I didn’t grow to love the main character. I got tired wishing and waiting for him to grow up. No matter how I wanted to give more credit to Rob and hope for the best for him, I became too weary to even bring my hands together to clap and cheer him on.
My Rating: 2.5/5 stars.
TFG Book of the Month for March 2015.