Book Review: Everyone’s Reading Bastard by Nick HornbyPosted: September 30, 2013
Nick Hornby’s opening brace of novels, High Fidelity and About A Boy, remain among my favourite books, especially High Fidelity which outside of the books I studied at school and Roald Dahl, is the book I’ve re-read the most. In those two books Hornby did a good job of capturing masculine obsessions and insecurities in funny and touching prose. I also enjoyed his non fiction works 31 Songs and Fever Pitch, which is so good it almost makes you like Arsenal.
But as his fiction career progressed I’ve found his work less engaging, How To Be Good was alright, but I couldn’t get into A Long Way Down. Still, with his latest short story being available on Kindle I thought I’d check out how he was doing.
The premise is simple, Charlie and his wife Elaine get a divorce. It’s been a long time coming but the decision is a little out of the blue. Charlie returns to work after the weekend to be confronted with the fact that his ex, a newspaper columnist is using him as fodder for her new column “Bastard”, where she savagely attacks him and details his many failures, mistakes and indiscretions.
Initially horrified Charlie is stunned by these and as the weeks past Bastard becomes increasingly popular. Try as he might, Charlie can’t avoid it.
I quite liked this story, the idea is pretty strong and it’s handled with this real sad, comic touch which is what Hornby’s best at. Charlie seems like a bit of a douche at times, but it’s still easy to sympathize with him and his ex does come off as slightly evil. The qualities Charlie originally found exciting have soured over the years and it captures how the novel
But Hornby sidesteps it being a misogynistic rant story by having Charlie actually be a bit of a bastard. He’s previously been unfaithful and he’s shown to be selfish at times. What makes it more interesting is how Charlie uses the column as an excuse not to try hard with dating. A woman he meets has such little regard for him that simply be being normal he appears nicer.
That being said, it never really crackles like those first two novels, although that might be due to length. Charlie is also nowhere near as endearing as some of Hornby’s other protagonists and it’s a shame that Elaine is kept in the background.
It’s a nice idea and fairly well done, but it’s too short to make a lasting impression, even though there are glimmers of the Hornby I loved.
Verdict: An alright, quick diversion. 5/10.
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.