Nobody writes insecure and neurotic people as well as Nick Hornby. Okay, there's Woody Allen. But Allen lacks the uniquely-British calm facade that pretends everything is fine; splendid, in fact. I'm not British , but as I was reading this book, I was impressed by how, just from having grown up in an ex-British colony, I have absorbed a lot of that into my psyche. I completely bought into how each of his main characters over-thinks and second-guesses their own actions and how the spoken dialogue is but a fraction of the one that goes on inside the character's head.
The story is about Annie and Duncan, a couple, and Tucker Crowe, the singer-songwriter who is the object if Duncan's obsession. After Annie splits up with Duncan, she makes the acquaintance of Tucker and ends up having him (and his young son) stay at her house.
An absurd story line, really. But who says absurdity is bad? Especially when the absurdity carries truth in it, such as the way Duncan justifies in his mind to himself that he is superior to the young man who, like him, is standing outside the house of Tucker's old girlfriend; and the way Annie uses algebra to calculate how much of her 15 wasted years with Duncan has caused her.
It was a delicious read for the most part, and a slightly uncomfortable one as well, when I recognized my own neuroses and insecurities. I have to say, though, about three quarters of the way through, I needed a break from all those wounded and fragile egos. Luckily (cunningly?) Nick Hornby inserts a laugh-out-loud scene using a common and totally benign greeting when two of the characters meet. That scene is priceless. Had the novel ended there, several threads would have been left hanging, but it would have worked for me.