is several things at once.
It is a specimen of guylit (I just invented the term yes) - romance and single life explained from the point of view of a man. And we have so few of those.
It is a humorous reflection on life and its many failings.
And lastly, it is the tale of a Brit singleton in his mid thirties who is unrelentingly firm in his reluctance to grow into a man.
A man who is so caught up in his fantasies of the ultimate love one is destined to end up with, that he ignores the woman who truly cares for him and consequently ends up losing her.
So the novel begins with our protagonist, Rob Fleming, listing the 5 major break-ups of his life which either hurt him too much or ended up changing him as a person for good. And he takes vicious pleasure in informing the reader that Laura, the woman who just left him, doesn't make the top 5, doesn't even come close.
How could you not get sucked into a book which begins on such a promising note?
An owner of a dingy vinyl record shop named Championship Vinyl, Rob and his two employee-cum-sidekicks Dick and Barry stumble through the maze of life, more often than not clueless about what they are doing.
They debate merits and demerits of obscure bands and music artists and are generous in their display of disdain for the ones who love their Beatles, Billy Joel, Tina Turner, Elton John and the usuals. And these hilarious conversations centering around mundane things like tv shows, movies, music and women lend the plot much of its frivolity and humour. Especially Barry, who is described by Rob as a 'snob obscurantist'
, makes you laugh uncontrollably with his habit of belittling everything, his sneaky tactics of selling records of artists no one has heard of and his interactions with Dick.
And so the plot meanders through the zigzagging life of Rob, touches briefly upon the lives of all the women with whom he had been in love at some point of time and settles on his on-and-off relationship with Laura.
High Fidelity comes as close to portraying single life and romance as it actually is and not in the larger-than-life Hollywood rom-comish way. It talks about the things we all do in relationships - how we decide how much to reveal to the other person. How our feelings for a person waver time and again and how we often falter, unable to decide what we want. How we hurt the other person in the process. How we realize how precious a relationship was only after it has ended. And more importantly how we are ever afraid of making that feared transformation - be it from girl to woman or boy to man.
Nick Hornby's debut novel is a charming creation - it is like a music record by an artist you may not have heard of but you can relate to the music, nonetheless.
And you can't help but want to play the record all over again.