Victoria's Reviews > A Long Way Down

A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby
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's review
Jan 20, 2010

liked it
bookshelves: fiction, humor
Recommended for: Hornby fans, people looking for a good beach read

Nick Hornby is one of those writers who I think would be fun to go get a few drinks with and listen to his observations on human nature. "A Long Way Down" tells the story of four people who meet on the roof of a popular suicide-spot on New Year's Eve on their way to kill themselves. As the night wears down, the four share their reasons for wanting to end their lives and end up haphazardly figuring out what to do now that they've failed to do so.

The story is told through alternating perspectives of the four would-be jumpers: JJ, a washed up American rocker, Maureen, who spends each day watching over her comatose son, Martin, a scandal ridden B-list celebrity, and Jess, an unstable teenager dealing with her older sister's disappearance. Hornby has clearly spent a good deal of time thinking up these characters, and what drives them to contemplate suicide. However, compared to his protagonists in "HIgh Fidelity" and "About A Boy", none of the characters in "A Long Way Down" really evolves into anything other than an avatar for the circumstances for their suicidal thoughts. Similarly, it's clear that Hornby while Hornby is fairly comfortable writing JJ and Martin, he seems to have difficulty really bringing Jess and Maureen to life. Too often, Maureen and Jess come off as flat, one-note characters capable of feeling only one emotion; Where Maureen is perpetually depressed, Jess is just simply crazy.

Still, Hornby must be commended for attempting to take a lighter look at suicide in a meaningful way. As each character takes time to reflect on their reasons for living, Hornby draws some interesting and poignant observations about what causes ordinary people to contemplate ending their lives. Unfortunately, that's what also prevents "A Long Way Down" from really resonating; it's as if the novel is one, long, essay about Hornby's beliefs regarding suicide. The plot is also rather asinine, and it becomes clear that the group's hijinks are merely there to keep the book from getting too heavy. Furthermore, the ending is a little too neatly wrapped up, with each character coming to some sort of epiphany about their reason to live.

That's not to say "A Long Way Down" wasn't an enjoyable read; It was. If anything, "A Long Way Down" is a nice bit of entertaining fluff with a some chunks of substance thrown in here and there. Hornby has some really interesting observations about suicide...I'm just not sure it worked so well in this format. All in all, for Hornby newcomers I would probably recommend "High Fidelity" or "About A Boy" over this one; but for Hornby fans, you could do much worse.

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Reading Progress

January 20, 2010 – Shelved
August 1, 2011 – Started Reading
August 1, 2011 –
page 65
17.66% "Maureen"
August 1, 2011 – Shelved as: humor
August 1, 2011 – Shelved as: fiction
August 2, 2011 –
page 154
41.85% "Martin"
August 2, 2011 –
page 184
50.0% "Jess"
August 3, 2011 –
page 272
73.91% "Maureen"
August 3, 2011 –
page 301
81.79% "Martin"
August 4, 2011 – Finished Reading

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