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Talking Books: Re-reading old favourites

A few weeks ago, someone on here shared a quote from High Fidelity…..

“I’m very good at the past. It’s the present I can’t understand.” 

And it was enough to send me on a re-read. 

I love High Fidelity by Nick Hornby. Always have.

Some people don’t get re-reading books, my response is generally “well, you watch films more than once, how is it different?”.

You get something different from each re-read, a detail you’ve missed, a different feeling the older you get. 

It is like meeting an old friend, there’s something comforting about picking up a favourite book and going back to the beginning again.

High Fidelity is one of those books for me, though I admit it has been years since the last time I caught up with Rob.

High Fidelity was the first book that summed up my obsession with music.

Like Rob, I’m a music geek. I wouldn’t say music snob, there are what some might describe as questionable choices, in my CD collection and Spotify playlist.

That first reading of High Fidelity, for me, managed to explain how closely we link music to our feelings in a way that I hadn’t really seen before. We all talk about the happy memories a certain song can remind us of, or how a song can instantly transport you back to a place, yet we conveniently ignore 

“People worry about kids playing with guns, and teenagers watching violent videos; we are scared that some sort of culture of violence will take them over. Nobody worries about kids listening to thousands – literally thousands – of songs about broken hearts and rejection and pain and misery and loss. The unhappiest people I know, romantically speaking, are the ones who like pop music the most; and I don’t know whether pop music has caused this unhappiness, but I do know that they’ve been listening to the sad songs longer than they’ve been living the unhappy lives.” Nick Hornby

I mean, you can’t argue with any of that.

I’ve described this book on many occasions as being about relationships and music; yes both are overriding themes but there is more to it than that….

For those of you unfamiliar with High Fidelity, here’s what it’s about.

Rob is in his thirties, runs a record shop in London that isn’t doing all that well, he has two employees Barry and Dick, he’s a music lover, he spends a lot of time making lists and compilation tapes.

Oh, and he’s just been dumped by Laura and that’s sparked something of existential crisis for Rob.

When I first read High Fidelity, I loved how it opened.

Do you know your desert-island, all-time, top five most memorable split-ups? Rob does. He keeps a list, in fact. But Laura isn’t on it.

“If you really wanted to mess me up, you should have got to me earlier.” Nick Hornby

On it though are; 

1) Alison Ashworth

2) Penny Hardwick

3) Jackie Allen

4) Charlie Nicholson

5) Sarah Kendrew.

Those opening pages are excellent, Hornby captures teenage angst exquisitely as Rob takes us through the whole gamut of emotions, the moping around, the hurt, anger and guilt. Rob’s felt it all with his top five most painful break ups of all time.

Rob seems to think that now Laura’s gone, he’s got his life back, he can do what he wants when he wants and yet, he just simply can’t get over his latest break up. He struggles to move on and so, sets out to contact each woman in his list to try and work out where he keeps going wrong and in turn, why his life became so directionless. 

I should despise Rob – for a start he slates Kate Bush, SOMETHING THAT IS WRONG ON ALL LEVELS.

Aside from this HUGE disagreement in our musical tastes, let’s call a spade a spade – he’s prone to dickish behaviour.

He looks down on people based on their knowledge of music and pop culture. 

He’s a 30 odd year-old man child, who refuses to grow up or do anything for himself, he’s a serious commitment phobe and at times he truly is bloody awful. 

Despite all this, Hornby manages to make him likable too. He’s deeply flawed, he’s insecure and without a doubt a nightmare to live with but still all these years later, I want him to get his shit together. This time I almost cheered when he finally reaches the simple realisation

“It’s not what you like but what you are like that’s important.” Nick Hornby

I used to think this was a funny book about break ups and music. The older I’ve got and with each re-read, the more I realise it’s about a man making mistakes, trying to figure out life, like we all are.

Top Five Reasons to read this book…

  1. There are some banging song choices throughout it – Nick Hornby KNOWS his music
  2. The characters are convincing. You’ll have met a Rob
  3. It is funny, I love the dry humour
  4. It nails the reality of romance and feelings.
  5. Who doesn’t love a good top five?

Do you re-read books? What are your favourites? Would love to hear about them 🙂

radiosarahc View All

Journalist, writer, traveller, music lover, collector of hats, news addict, bookworm

8 thoughts on “Talking Books: Re-reading old favourites Leave a comment

  1. You have convinced me to add the book to my BTR list. I’ve always enjoyed the movie (having seen it at least a bakers dozen of times). Plus nearly every event in my life is associated with a song. Some people hear voices, I am never without a song.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. As a bookworm, I also love re-reading old books. And I’m planning to re-read some
    Jane Austen’s classics. I haven’t read High Fidelity. But your review makes it sounds interesting to read. I shall add it to my TBR. Thank you for sharing.


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