High Fidelity Summary

Nick Hornby

High Fidelity

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High Fidelity Summary

SuperSummary, a modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, offers high-quality study guides that feature detailed chapter summaries and analysis of major themes, characters, quotes, and essay topics.  This one-page guide includes a plot summary and brief analysis of A High Fidelity by Nick Hornby.

Bestselling British author and journalist Nick Hornby published High Fidelity in 1995. It sold more than a million copies and was adapted to a feature film and critically lauded musical. Loved for its humor and acceptance of human foibles, the novel looks at themes of monogamy, self-sabotage, and loyalty to people as well as to artistic callings.

The protagonist, Rob Fleming, owns a secondhand record store called Championship Vinyl in London. His girlfriend, Laura Lydon, has recently dumped him. For some reason that Rob cannot even explain to himself, he told Laura that he was interested in seeing other women and had had an affair. She left him for Ian, their upstairs neighbor that he doubts Laura really likes. Rob feels beaten up by her departure, but he will not admit this to himself.

In his mid 30s, Rob feels pretty aimless everyday. He lacks confidence and constantly questions his self-worth. He spends a lot of time talking with his employees, Dick and Barry, about cassette tapes, musical chart listings, and anything else that proves that they are music experts. They also quietly ridicule some customers’ taste in music, especially if they do not know much about classical pop. Rob tries to ignore the fact that his record store is failing.

Despite his brio with music, Rob frequently questions the validity of every small and large action. He thinks about Laura’s claim that he has commitment issues. He thinks about his promising DJ career that he did not follow through on. Instead of doing any long-term activity in the world, Rob daydreams about the past and looks for women to have a casual fling with. These hookups restore Rob’s confidence, albeit only for a few moments.

The novel opens with Rob making a list of the most significant breakups in his life. He and Laura had been living together for two years, and he makes the list to prove to everyone (but mostly himself) that Laura was not the worst breakup he ever experience. This is not true, but if Rob is going to feel good about anything, he has to believe it. Having nothing better to do, Rob daydreams and analyzes the story of each of his five former girlfriends. After looking at what went wrong with each relationship, Rob is better equipped for a stable relationship with Laura.

Alison Ashworth is the first woman on Rob’s list. Though their relationship only lasted three days, she was his first kiss. Rob recalls that Alison then moved on to another guy on the playground bench.

Penny Hardwick was Rob’s second girlfriend. He best remembers her for refusing to have sex with him, constantly saying she wanted to wait to make it special. But Penny ended up having sex with Chris Thomson, the class stud. This only increased Rob’s serious lack of confidence with women.

Rob reluctantly recalls how he met his third girlfriend, Jackie Allen. Jackie had been dating his best friend Phil. Despite their bond, Rob moved in on Jackie and stole her interest away from Phil. His friendship with Phil was forever soured, and to his surprise, Rob lost all interest in Jackie after she agreed to leave Phil.

In 1977, Rob was in college. He was thrilled that the women he met in college would know nothing of his previous failures with women or anything about his childhood.

His first college girlfriend was Charlie Nicholson. Rob fell in love with her instantly. She was attractive, talented, and well-liked. They dated for two years. During that time, Rob never totally believed that Charlie truly liked him; she seemed his superior in so many ways. Rob’s insecurities encouraged Charlie to ask herself why she was with him; eventually she left Rob for another man, Marco.

His fifth girlfriend was Sarah Kendrew. They met in 1984. Rob says that he was pulled in by Sarah because she was so obviously average. After Charlie left him, he figured that he must be average too, and he has shaped his life around that understanding.

Rob and Sarah bonded because they both had been dumped recently and had low self-esteem. But after two years, even Sarah leaves Rob for another man.

Rob reflects on how he met Laura. He tells himself that Laura cannot damage him because he has already been hurt by all these other women. He also claims that he is emotionally sturdier than he was in his 20s. Still, he misses Laura.

When Laura’s father dies, the two reunite and begin dating again. Having reflected on why his past relationships failed, Rob is finally ready for a sustained, mostly monogamous relationship with Laura. Though some problems remain. Rob still seems oblivious to his good qualities, despite Laura’s assurances; despite himself, he still fancies other women. But he has high hopes that this time with Laura will be a success.

The novel ends with Laura asking Rob to write a list of his top five dream jobs. None of them are practical, or they require too much training (architect) so they decide to make the most of his current talents. She signs him up to DJ at the Dog and Pheasant pub with hopes of relaunching his DJ career.