Being a fan of the movie, which turns out to be extremely true to the book except for being on two different continents, I decided to give High Fidelity a chance.
A witty, light-hearted piece of fiction about a bunch of defective thirty-somethings trying to succeed at relationships, this book works because the narrator, Rob Fleming, is completely candid, embodying (and admitting to) the sort of romantic sentiments (love, hate, jealousy, inadequacy, &c.) more at home in a young teenager. You’ll find yourself laughing out loud as you read and muttering, “Oh yeah, I’ve been there.”
I was disappointed that I kept trying to qualify the book with my opinion of the movie, saying to myself—for instance—that Barry’s character as described by Hornby is or isn’t as good as the one played by Jack Black. I wish I had read the novel first, but unfortunately I missed that boat by a span of years.
Be warned that High Fidelity is full of pop references, many that you will know, and others obscure enough to make you feel like a schmuck. I suppose what I like most about it is that it’s a book about pidgeon-holed people: all they know is pop music, and the obsessive little culture they create is fascinating to observe. On the other hand, I’m glad I’m not one of them, since none of these characters have any idea how to act in a relationship. It’s criminal.
My recommendation is that you read the book, but I’m a bit puzzled as to whether or not I should dig up some other Hornby. High Fidelity was good, sure, as was its cinematic counterpart, but Hornby’s other novels include things like About a Boy, that awful Hugh Grant flick, so I’m unsure. I suppose there’s only one way to find out.