First, why I had purchased this book: sometime ago I had read a small article by Nick Hornby about and in support of pop songs, which I liked and had made a mental note to read books written by him. During my visit to Strand Book Festival last month, I came across this book and purchased it.
This book was published in 2001. This is what Nick Hornby had to say about the title of book in an interview given before publication of the book "I remember Alain de Botton once saying that the 'How' at the beginning of his title [How Proust Can Change Your Life] had added a few thousand on to his sales figures. The title's ironic. Everybody's in a state of moral confusion throughout.'' Well, Mr Hornby can count me among those few thousand!
The book is narrated in first person by Katie Carr, who is female and G.P. with NHS in London. Here is the gist of story: The book opens with Katie, who is married to David for fifteen years, calls from Leeds to her husband in London telling him that she do not want to be married to him any more. She had an affair with a person with whom Katie had meet in the medical conference in Leeds and suddently decides to call her husband from a car park. Later on reaching London, she realizes that she does not want to divorce David for the sake of her children Tom and Molly. David is a columinst with a local paper and writes articles in which he rants about many things. Katie tells David and children about her affair. Later on, David happens to meet D.J. GoodNews who is a spirtual heaer, at a local newstand. GoodNews has some magic in his hands and he cures David of his backache, and he also cures Molly of eczema. David is now completely enamoured with GoodNews and offers to shelter him at their home. GoodNews draws from David's heart cynicism and replaces it with an unquestioning, all-embracing love of mankind. The trouble starts for Katie from there onwards: David gives away spare toys and one computer to charity. David and GoodNews initiate a scheme to encourage everyone in the street to take a homeless person into their spare room and they make plans to eradicate world debt at the kitchen table. In short, they make life of Katie a hell. Their son, Tom, is indifferent to all these while their daughter, Molly, sympathies with his father. Many times Katie thinks of leaving David, but does not for the sake of children. In the end Katie decides that she cannot change David and all she want is a Discman and some CDs and half a dozen novels. She does not want anyone else to hear what she is hearing on her Discman and want to block out every last trace of world she inhabit, even if it is just for half an hour a day.
The book started promisingly, but ends abruptly. It seems either the author does not know how to end it or he is planning a sequel -- How to be better! It has some funny incidents, but that is it. People are generally good, but to change the world and or one's local area is difficult task.