This novel is narrated by Katie Carr, who very much wants to be a good person.  She is a physician and a mother of two, and lives with her petulant husband, David.  David is the author of a column in the local newspaper called "Angriest Man in Holloway".  As their marriage falls apart, David undergoes a conversion at the hands of GoodNews, a young guru, and ceases to be sarcastic and angry, embarking instead on an effort to improve the world with acts of kindness.  Katie is forced to consider what it means to be a good person and how that affects whether to salvage her marriage, how to raise her children and how to be the type of physician she always considered herself to be.


What does it mean when we think of ourselves or someone else as a good person?  This is the question coursing throughout this novel, and Katie Carr tries to answer it in every aspect of her life.  It is a calculation that figures prominently in her thoughts about what it means to be good as a doctor, a parent, a neighbour, a wife, and a member of society.  Carr evokes and challenges the pieties of middle-class "goodness" in each of these categories, and punctures ostentatious claims about being good that are unlinked to sacrifice and actions.

Hornby's Carr does not try to write an auto-hagiography and nor is it a confessional: an acrid sarcasm and a keen psychological observation underlie her meditations on her marriage and adultery, raising two children and working as a general practitioner.  In terms of her medical experience, physicians may find her relationship with her patients rather stereotypical, but perhaps the most interesting change Katie undergoes is in her relationship with one of her most "difficult" patients, when she tries to live up to the moral demands of a “good” profession rather than complacently incorporating into her identity the assumption of beneficence.


Riverhead Books

Place Published

New York



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