Nick Hornby is a favorite author of mine. There is something so tactile and uncompromising about the themes of his novels that they bleed into one’s tNick Hornby is a favorite author of mine. There is something so tactile and uncompromising about the themes of his novels that they bleed into one’s thoughts and the impact ranges from deft to pummeling.
A book like High Fidelity has more of the deft touch whereas “A Long Way Down” pummels one, gently, but by the end leaves one with the same feeling: Life affirmation. Real life affirmation. Not Dr. Phil or Wayne Dyer hocus pocus.
Alternating between protagonist narratives (used the entire novel to give four different perspectives to events), Hornby opens “A Long Way Down” by introducing us to four despondent people whose lives are falling apart. They are unknown to each other, but coincidently meet on New Year’s Eve at the top of London’s most popular suicide spot – each ready, they believe, to end their lives.
We are treated to the back story of each of the four from the first-person:
Martin – a famous TV presenter (like Regis, according to J.J., the American) whose life has been ruined by scandal.
J.J. – An American, once the member of an upcoming Rock & Roll Band, who has now lost his band and his girl.
Maureen – A middle aged recluse where her only life is that in support of her aged 30 comatose son.
Jess – An aged 18 flame-tongued anti-social instigator scorned by her first love, deserted by her beloved sister, and the plague of her politically active parents.
After meeting at the top of the building, the novel continues the narrative as each character narrates their life as it is interwoven with the other three.
The journey related by Hornby is a carefully constructed as both allegorical and literal transliterations of an average life for four very different types of people. Paradoxically, in Hornby’s story, the largest philosophical breakthrough can come from the most cloistered; the most absurd decision can come from the most sanguine; the greatest sustained effort from the most neurotic; the most stupidity from the best educated. These are not always the roles assumed, but the variance and randomness underlines the common thread of humanity and life for all types of people.
These four people thrown together in the ultimate occurrence of random device are nothing alike. At best they don’t much like each other; at worst they are hostile. For some reason, though, they keep arranging to see each other; scheme together; and find something in themselves through the others. The book also lays bare the common meanness of people; as well as the little kindnesses that can propel lives forward at a much greater velocity than one could possibly explain. Then there is the scope of tragedy, both self-afflicted and wildly unpredictable.
“A Long Way Down” is at times laugh out loud funny and deeply profound. Typical as Hornby’s style, the key to the symbolism of the narrative is summarized in the last sentence of the book. The meaning resonates like echoes from the deep cavern of our lives.
By the way, I’m on goodreads.com now. Keep up with what I am reading, what’s in my library, and what I’m planning on reading. Can you keep up? Find me here.
Gorgeous and touching and frustrating, Hornby hits the right mix of likability and detectability while revealing a little that we share in common withGorgeous and touching and frustrating, Hornby hits the right mix of likability and detectability while revealing a little that we share in common with each of the characters. In life no one is completely innocent or completely to blame. ...more