High Fidelity is a 1995 fiction novel by the English author Nick Hornby. It tells the story of Rob Fleming, an obsessive music fan who examines his top five worst break ups to understand his most recent heartbreak. The book was adapted into a musical, a television series, and 2000 film starring John Cusack and directly by Stephen Frears.
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Rob Fleming is the 35-year-old owner of a record store in London. When his girlfriend Laura breaks up with him, he struggles to cope. He creates a list of his top five worst break ups of all time but insists that Laura does not even make the top five. He gives a detailed breakdown of the five women who he believes have had the most devastating impact on his life, including Alison Ashworth, Penny Hardwick, Jackie Allen, Charlie Nicholson, and Sarah Kendrew.
Rob returns to work, where he spends his days arguing about music with his two employees. Dick is shy and awkward while Barry is outgoing and obnoxious. All three men are equally as obsessed with pop music, and they habitually create top five lists of their favorite songs, albums, and artists with increasingly tenuous parameters. Rob feels irritable and alienated after Laura’s departure; nevertheless, he accepts an invitation from Barry and Dick to attend a concert. They watch an American singer named Marie LaSalle perform. Rob is impressed and immediately attracted to Marie, but he cannot stop thinking about Laura. He realizes that she left him and moved in with their former neighbor, Ian, which makes him even more angry.
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Rob decides that the best way to resolve his current crisis is to return to his past. He works his way through the list of top five break ups to understand why he has failed so miserably to find love. He begins to reach out to the women. He learns that Alison Ashworth is now married to one of Rob’s former schoolmates in Australia, while Penny Hardwick reminds Rob that he broke up with her because she was reluctant to have sex with him. Rob decides that both situations are not his fault, so he begins to feel better.
Rob and Marie meet in a bar and return to her apartment. After a long, complicated talk about their ex-partners, they spend the night together. While Rob has always liked the idea of dating a musician, the situation with Marie is ultimately unsatisfying. They remain friends.
After evenings with Jackie and Sarah, Rob decides that he sees his past in a new light and begins to blame himself less for his failures. Charlie is the woman who he believes caused him the most damage, as he was obsessed with her and felt that she was always far more interesting and attractive than him. He contacts her in the present and, when he finally reaches her, she invites him to a dinner party. At the dinner party, Rob realizes that Charlie is pretentious and dull. He feels less regret about the failure of their relationship.
After difficult conversations with Laura, Ian, and Laura’s friend Lisa, Rob finds himself in a difficult position. When Laura’s father dies, Laura invites Rob to the funeral. At the funeral, he gets into an argument and leaves, but Laura goes out to find him. After a long, difficult conversation they decide to reunite. As they piece back their lives together, Laura helps Rob rediscover his passion for his work. She sets up a club night at a bar where he can DJ and invites Marie to play a concert at the record store. Rob slowly begins to see that while his relationship with Laura might be simpler and more restrained than the soaring passions he hears about in pop songs, he appreciates her even more.
After being tempted by another woman, Rob decides to ask Laura to marry him. Laura laughs at Rob and then gently declines his offer. However, he believes that the question itself shows how much he has grown as a person. Rob performs as a DJ at the club night and realizes how thankful he is that Laura is back in his life.
By Nick Hornby