High Fidelity, by Nick Hornby

“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.”

This first line of the book is a bit strange to read and may be something that you probably won’t understand immediately. The top five immediately makes you think of music. This makes sense, since the main character of the book is fond of music and makes lists (of top five song about something) all the time. He does this with his friends, who are also his employees and also have a passion for music. This book/film is a comedy and most people will recognize themselves in the main character Rob.

The book is about Rob. He lives in London and is thirty something years old. He owns a record shop that has a minimal amount of customers. In the record shop he has two assistants: hysterical Barry and nerd Dick. Together making lists is their thing. His relationship with his girlfriend Laura has just ended. He is upset about this and he doesn’t know exactly why. This makes him think of a list (this is the way he thinks, in top five lists). His all-time, top five memorable split-ups, in chronological order. This list makes him want to find all those girls en discover if there’s a reason for him to be dumped again this time. So he looks them all up for a chat and to ask why they have dumped him. In the mean time he finds out that Laura is seeing his former neighbour. This makes him even more upset.

While he is single again, he gets to meet a girl called Marie Desalle. She is a singer and he feels attracted to her immediately. He celebrates his birthday briefly. And the next thing Laura’s father is dead and she asks him to come to the funeral. The fact that he has met and spoken to his former girlfriends, makes him wiser. He now understands more about himself and his relationship with Laura. After this a lot of things are sorted out and the story ends in a certain way.

Because he doesn’t understand why all this is happening, the only thing he can do to make it clear to himself, is to make a list. In that way, he is a bit autistic. Autistics have problems with emotions and communication and prefer specific topics (music) and structure (lists). He can’t fully understand emotions. He can’t deal with Laura leaving him and her father dying. He tries to understand those things by making lists and not dealing with any emotions. He does have emotions, clearly. But for some reason the only thing he can do to explain things for himself is by thinking of it rationally.

The friendship between Rob and the two assistants in the record shop, is very amusing to read about. The way they respond to each other is in a very harsh way. They make fun of each other in a nasty way. On the other hand they are fond of music and love to share their passion with each other.

High Fidelity is a funny story to read. Nick Hornby has done a great job in letting the main character really communicate with the reader. The result is that the story is full of recognition and wit. To read about Rob’s struggles with his emotions, in combination with the way he talks about himself, is very amusing.

“Just a pefectly clear explanation of why some people have it and some people don’t. Later on, in the back of a minicab, I realize that all Charlie has done is rephrase my own feeling about my genius for being normal; maybe that particular talent – my only one, as it happens – was overrated anyway.”


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