Therese's Reviews > A Long Way Down

A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby
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Apr 08, 2012

it was amazing
bookshelves: funny, literary-and-general-fiction, top-favorites

A novel about four very different suicidal people who meet by chance on the top of a building they were all planning to throw themselves off of.

I do a lot of long drives, and audiobooks are expensive, so whenever I'm visitng my parents in Tucson, Arizona, I go to Bookman's, the local used bookstore chain, where my mom always has vast amounts of credit, and try to find a few new audiobooks. Usually the pickings are slim - few books are even published in CD format, mostly bestselling fiction and boring-looking nonfiction, and even fewer end up at the used bookstore. But I picked out this one because the author name was familiar - I'd been meaning to read some Nick Hornby at some point. But the premise sounded deeply unpromising and I was pretty sure it'd be a boring, depressing, overly literary listen, so I stuck it somewhere in the middle of a 3-foot-tall stack of unread books in my apartment, and there it sat for months. Until I unearthed it right before another car trip, having run out of other things to listen to, and resignedly put it into my car CD player.

Happily, it turned out to be a new favorite book. It was funny, heartwrenching, entertaining, full of sharp, hard truths at every turn, suspenseful, wise, and compassionate, took a lot of courageous risks, and yet didn't take itself too seriously. The ending was satisfying, believable, and uplifting without being expected or cliche or neat or sentimental. I want to say it was close to perfection, but then it occurs to me I can't say that, because it was too humbly written to be trying for perfection. It's a flawed book in the way that a very loveable, brave, funny person is flawed, that is, forgivably, delightfully, and unpredictably.

This was my first Nick Hornby book, if you hadn't gathered, although I had seen the movie version of About a Boy, which I liked and which made me want to read the book. So apparently, I am very late to the Nick Hornby party. Anyway, I'm in love. The best authors make you fall a little in love with them, and the best writing, I think, is an act of charm and seduction. So that's another piece of evidence that this book is up there with the best.

I was surprised to see so many negative reviews, and reading through them, my sense is that many of the bad reviews come either from (1) people who felt that the book was not highbrow or "literary" enough, and (2), those who have read a bunch of other Nick Hornby books and felt that this one didn't measure up to the quality of the others. For the first group, I think that their failing to appreciate this book is possibly a sad personal failing that amounts to little more than snobbery. But then, I'm a literary pragmatist, rather than a literary essentialist: If a book works for me, I consider it good. I don't have some pre-conceived ideal in mind of what a good book should be, which I measure the books that I read against. As for the second group, I guess I can see how, set against a backdrop of fantastic writing, anything that falls short of the best Hornby you've read might pale by comparison. But heck, it just makes me happy that there's a lot more Hornby out there still for me to read, if people think the others are even better!
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Quotes Therese Liked

Nick Hornby
“I'm not telling you that suicidal people aren't so far away from people who can get by; I'm telling you that people who can get by aren't so far away from being suicidal.”
Nick Hornby, A Long Way Down


Reading Progress

04/06/2016 marked as: read

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