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A Long Way Down [Paperback]

Nick Hornby
3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (166 customer reviews)

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Book Description

6 April 2006

'Can I explain why I wanted to jump off the top of a tower block?'

For disgraced TV presenter Martin Sharp the answer's pretty simple: he has, in his own words, 'pissed his life away'. And on New Year's Eve, he's going to end it all ... But not, as it happens, alone. Because first single-mum Maureen, then eighteen-year-old Jess and lastly American rock-god JJ turn up and crash Martin's private party. They've stolen his idea - but brought their own reasons.

Yet it's hard to jump when you've got an audience queuing impatiently behind you. A few heated words and some slices of cold pizza later and these four strangers are suddenly allies. But is their unlikely friendship a good enough reason to carry on living?

Product details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (6 April 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140287027
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140287028
  • Product Dimensions: 19.4 x 12.8 x 2.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (166 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 359,645 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Nick Hornby was born in 1957, and is the author of six novels, High Fidelity, About a Boy, How To Be Good, A Long Way Down (shortlisted for the Whitbread Award)Slam and Juliet, Naked. He is also the author of Fever Pitch, a book on his life as a devoted supporter of Arsenal Football Club, and has edited the collection of short stories Speaking with the Angel. He has written a book about his favourite songs, 31 Songs, and his reading habits,The Complete Polysyllabic Spree. In 2009 he wrote the screenplay for the film An Education. Nick Hornby lives and works in Highbury, north London.

Product Description


A dramatic, sad and thoroughly side-splitting novel. ("Newsday")

About the Author

Nick Hornby is the bestselling author of High Fidelity, About a Boy and How to be Good, as well as two works of non-fiction, Fever Pitch and 31 Songs, and the editor of Speaking with the Angel. In 1999 he was awarded the E. M. Forster Award. In 2002 he won the W.H.Smith Award for Fiction and in 2003 was honoured with the Writers' Writer Award at the Orange Word International Writers Festival. He lives in Highbury, North London.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
Thought provoking novel about four strangers who find themselves on the roof of a block of flats on New Years Eve. Rather than jumping from this notorious suicide spot, they all come down and form a sort of informal self-help group as they try to rebuild their lives. The four - a disgraced TV presenter, tragically sad middle-aged single mother who has devoted her life to her disabled son, failed rock star and fowl-mouthed teen - have little in common but form an unspoken bond.

Hornby's novel is excellent in that it is moving at times and offers some hope without lapsing into sentimentality - everything is not resolved at the end. Bringing up plenty of other thought provoking issues as it proceeds, it is a real page-turner. The flow is aided by its format with each of the four telling the story in turn for a few pages at a time. Very effective as is the whole story. A superb novel.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
By Sam Holliday VINE VOICE
Nick Hornby can rightfully claim to be the king of modern day intelligent 'lad-lit' and he deserves immense credit for getting many 30something males reading again.
His first three major works - two superb novels About A Boy and High Fidelity plus Fever Pitch, his touchingly honest account of the male passion for football - put him into a league of his own and made subsequent books must-buys.
To be honest, however, his last two novels (including this on) have been let downs.
This one has an excellent premise - it is about four people who are about to commit suicide at the same time at a well -known 'suicide spot' deciding against it and forming an unlikely bond. The problem is that the unlikely bond is simply too unlikely because the four people are just so different that I doubt they could convince a child to eat sweets let alone stop each other killing themselves!
Told in turn by the four very different characters, the story has a nice pace and is very readable but it simply lacks credibility. Worst of all is the creation of a screwed up teenager - Jess - who is simply so unlikable and horrible there won't be anybody reading this who wouldn't have wished she had indeed jumped in chapter one. That the three relatively sane and intelligent people around here would have befriended her and ignored her OTT exploits is one of those unlikely premises on which this book is based and I am afraid that by the end of the book I felt a little bit cheated that a potentially fascinating plot had simply failed to deliver or offer nearly enough of Hornby's usually spot-on insights into the psyche.
Nick Hornby remains an important writer and a very good wordsmith and ideas man but he needs another 'great' book I think. And this isn't it.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Urban fairytale meets real life 5 Jun 2006
I just read a few of the reviews for this book and I was taken aback by the amount of negative feedback it generated. I was totally enthused by A Long Way Down and read it in one sitting. Thinking back on it now it's true that there wasn't much of a plot, that the messy situations the characters are in don't get fully resolved at the end, and that the basic premise is contrived: four strangers who are intending to top themselves meet by chance on top of a building on New Year's Eve, and as a result end up forming a weird support group and don't kill themselves. Well, all that's true but it didn't bother me in the slightest as I didn't feel that that was the point of the book - or rather, it was as these apparent weaknesses are in fact what make this book amazing, and I'm sure it's completely intentional on the part of the author. The contrived aspects give a sort of urban fairytale feel to the book, but it's pretty obvious that it's tongue in cheek and meant to be that way - I think the whole episode about the imaginary angel confirms this. Perhaps the reason why a lot of readers didn't like it is because in spite of the contrived elements it's a lot like real life, therefore unpredictable and not like a "proper book", with plot, dénouement etc. To sum up: an incredibly wise, compassionate and at times hilarious exploration of human despair and frailties, and also a joyful celebration of life in all its weirdness and unresolvedness. You will absolutely love it if you've found yourself in limbo at least once in your life, thinking you can't carry on while still keeping a glimmer of hope on the back burner. But if you're looking for a clever plot and storyline don't buy this book!
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very Clever 18 April 2006
By Phil
This is a very bold book, but Hornby pulls it off with minimalist simplicity and drollness. The tale, about suicide and hopelessness, that unfolds is a curious and impulsive one. An odd quartet of suicidals becomes a kind of surrogate family; each individual makes a move at creating a bearable future, while constantly getting on each other's nerves. Hornby retains a lovely comic undertone. Life is worth living
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Yes, but... 11 Feb 2007
It is perhaps no surprise that this book has garnered such diverse scorings on Amazon and similar sites. Those who give it a low score tend to attribute this to the fact that thay cannot "identify with" most or all of the characters, and those who praise it seem to focus on Hornby's ability to portray different character viewpoints and the cleverness of the conceit.

Neither of these viewpoints is wrong. If you read a book hoping to identify and sympathise with a character, then you are bound to feel alienated from at least three of the protagonists - it's more than possible that you will not identify with any of them.

On the other hand, if you are looking for literery conceipt and the ability to switch between viewpoints, you will find it here in abundance. Pay your money and take your choice.

Trying to steer between the two stools is difficult. The multi-person narrative is a device that allows the author to flash a few of his skills, but ultimately is does make it difficult to care about any of the main protagonists in particular. Given that the central plot drive is "will they or will they not sort their lives out?" this is a serious flaw, but not fatal, as the characters and their voices are at least believable. I am also heartened that Hornby didn't try and create some unbelievably sugary ending that tied everyone's lives up in a happy ending that so rarely occurs, and that I still feel that each of the characters has a life oustide of the book that I wish to explore in more detail.

To me it's a clever little tale that never quite pays off, but which is at least not predictable and does remain in the memory
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars I am a fan of early Nick Hornby but afraid ...
I am a fan of early Nick Hornby but afraid this didn't work for me.
Characters are a bit shallow and acted out of what character they had.
Published 4 days ago by andrew64
3.0 out of 5 stars Accident
Unfortunately, i accidently ordered this book in German, so i was not able to read it. I have since bought it in english
Published 1 month ago by Hamish Hay
3.0 out of 5 stars Good but ...
actually wavering around 3and a half stars but can't stretch to 4. And whenever I read a Nick Hornby these days I only think it's a notch or three below High Fidelity.
Published 1 month ago by John Callen
3.0 out of 5 stars Not So Long...
It’s not Hornby’s best by a mile. I cherish my copies of “About a Boy” and “High Fidelity”, and my to-read list includes several other Hornby titles. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Valerie L. Pate
3.0 out of 5 stars a long way down
at one point in the book i wished they had jumped so i could get to the end. i kept reading thinking something good was going to happened but it didnt. Read more
Published 1 month ago by mrs h
5.0 out of 5 stars Humorous and captivating
Very cleverly written from each characters angle/viewpoint throughout, I found it amusing and couldn't put the book down, The only other book I have read from this author is... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Looby
2.0 out of 5 stars The film might be better than the book.......
This book is written as individual narratives - first one character speaks, then the next, then the next and so it goes, but it jumps from character to character without clear... Read more
Published 1 month ago by J. Hopwood
3.0 out of 5 stars Happy sadness
Enjoyed the dry humour. Great.mix of comedy and tragedy. Not a bad read. Shall try to read Hornby novels :).
Published 2 months ago by Emily Garrud
3.0 out of 5 stars so so, disappointing as I expected more than this ...
not very funny as I hoped

not very believable

not so poignant story

too much repeated f word neither funny nor modern

not worth to say... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Min
1.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing
I bought this after watching the film and enjoying it. I was disappointed with the book it wasn't great. I preferred the film. Would not recommend.
Published 2 months ago by Karen W
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