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A Long Way Down
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
I admit to being a Hornby fan, but I found this once again a joy to read.
You could criticise Hornby for only writing about Guardian reading Arsenal fans living in North London, but this underestimates the breadth of styles and ideas he has now displayed.
He chooses an eclectic group of characters and these 'unlikely' characters narrate his seemingly morbid subject. How do these living characters deal with their desire to kill themselves? And does what brought them to the edge, having a sick child and crushed hopes in the case of the sweet old lady, Maureen, or the pathetic life of the orange faced TV presenter, impact their life after attempted suicide?
The characters may be difficult to warm to, bar Maureen, who puts herself forward as the most natural protagonist, but each draws you in to the novel's story and the message. 'A Long Way Down' is simply a good story, marvellously told.
I recommend it.
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29 of 33 people found the following review helpful
on 23 September 2005
A Long Way Down really does start with an intriguing premise. 4 completely unrelated strangers meet on top of Toppers Towers, a well known suicide spot in North London. The four characters, Martin, Maureen, Jess & JJ come from varying backgrounds with varying amounts of angst in their lives.
At first glance some problems seem a lot worse than others, Maureen is deeply depressed and lonely, which has been brought about by the continued care of her son, who can no more identify who she is or where he is than I can jump over a house. Martin has disgraced himself and lost his lucrative TV job by sleeping with a 15 year old girl, Jess is distraught over the break up of a relationship and JJ sees his life spiralling out of control with the loss of his band, and his girl.
Now you might think that the pressures of full time care of a son who can't appreciate it out rank the troubles of a young girl on her first break up but what Nick Hornby quite skilfully does here is to create an even ground, not judging peoples problems or making light of them. What he is essentially saying is that people deal with problems in their own way, and that even the smallest problem can seem like the end of the world in the wrong hands.
Our characters grow through their relationship with one and other, discussing each others problems and short comings. We begin to discover that there is more to Jess's neurosis than typical "teen angst" and where you swing from understand Martin's behaviours (not his sleeping with a 15 year old...), to thinking he is frankly a berk who has no right to his family if he won't put the work into it. This juxtaposition is at times well handled, but overall feels a little heavy handed and when it comes to it, this is my major problem with the whole book.
The idea is a good one, 4 people come together at their lowest ebb and look to understand each other as well as themselves, but it feels all a little contrived. As if you saw an ad in the paper saying suicide support group, meet on Toppers Towers Monday at Midnight. Bring tea...
It is at times funny, but not laugh out loud funny. It is a times sad, but not cry your eyes out sad. It is at times uplifting, but not hug the nearest person to you uplifting. It is an easy read and will waste a few hours better than most but it isn't an inspired piece of work, and certainly not one of his best.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 10 January 2010
`A Long Way Down' is the fourth novel by author Nick Hornby. The novel is an unusual story about four individuals who only have one thing in common; they all intend on jumping to their deaths from `Topper's Tower' on New Years Eve.
It is on the roof of Topper's Tower that we meet the four characters; the first is Martin Sharp, a once successful morning television presenter who lost his job and family when he slept with a 15-year-old girl which led to a spell in prison. Martin is then joined by Maureen, a middle aged women who has come to the end of her tether looking after her severely disabled son. We then meet Jess, a precocious 18-year-old girl with a broken heart who has to be wrestled to the ground to prevent her from jumping. The last to join the group is JJ, an American rocker who once had great success with his band "Big Yellow" however he chose a girl over his band and when this fell through he has had to make his money by delivering pizzas.
The only thing that stops them all from jumping is the presence of each other as each character wanted to do it alone. This leads to an unlikely group of allies who decide to help each other through their tough times.

The novel itself is very well written; Hornby has used first person narrative very successfully which makes it read more like a diary rather than a story... "Oh, and one more thing- especially if you're reading this in the future, when everyone's forgotten about us and how things turned out for us..." This makes the novel feel very personal and allows you to relate and care for each of the characters. If anything, the story is a little far fetched with four suicidal strangers each with such dramatic backgrounds meeting on a roof top and becoming allies. However the character's are written so well that you quickly accept the unlikelihood of this happening and become intrigued by what led them up there in the first place. In this sense Hornby does not disappoint, each page reveals a new piece of information about their past which allows the reader to get to know the characters better and actually care for them.

The story is set in modern day Britain something Hornby writes about very well. He hits the nail on the head about the attitude of today's society through his character JJ and it is this that sets the tone for the novel. " The trouble with my generation is we all think we're geniuses. Making something isn't good enough for us...we have to be something." Overall this novel is driven entirely by its character's who are extremely interesting and thought provoking. As with Hornby's previous novels, A Long Way Down is an easy read with elements of comedy which help put a softer edge to the serious issues raised in the novel.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on 10 November 2006
I usually love Nick Hornby's books - I have read About A Boy and How To Be Good several times so was really pleased to find that he had released his latest novel. However I found the book really hard to get into - the concept of the four characters meeting on the top of the car park was good but unfortunately the characters were either all unlikable or forgetable. The book lurched about all over the place and certainly wasn't difficult to put down. It felt an anti-climax when I had eventually finished the book and it's not one I would bother to read again.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 18 May 2007
When How To Be Good was published, much was made of the fact that Hornby has chosen to make his protagonist a woman - the coverage for A Long Way Down seemed to focus much more on the atypical subject matter (suicide and depression) rather than his deployment of four alternating voices throughout his book to explore how four different people reached the point where they wanted to end their lives.

The book sees four very different people on top of a block of flats that also serves as a local suicide spot one New Years Eve. All four stop each other from jumping yet all feel that they have very real problems that they cannot solve, at least not on their own. From this point, Hornby moves through the development of the characters lives from this point onwards and explores the common bond that ties them all together.

Hornby has drawn his characters expertly and it is difficult not to empathise with them. The book is also shot through with his normal humorous observations and this could be the funniest book about depression ever written. This is not to say that the book makes light of suicide - indeed, it is a beautiful exploration of what remains a real taboo within society.

A Long Way Down is not a book of perfect happy endings, but like How To Be Good suggests glimmers of hope at the end of the book. This book has reaffirmed Hornby's status of one of the best writers the UK currently has to offer.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
Abiding by his now familiar mantra of "write about what you know", Nick Hornby uses his favourite North London territory as the backdrop for a humorous but hard-hitting examination of the plight of four would-be suicides, variously damaged and battered by life, who come together one New Year's Eve at "Toppers' House", a notorious suicide venue.
The book considers their more or less uneasy relationship over the following months as they attempt to come to terms with the respective problems life has dealt them.
A tale of the lukewarm milk of human kindness and of how genuinely well-intentioned attempts to communicate often end up succeeding only in failing to communicate at all, the book shows much of the chutzpah, drive and flair we have come to expect from Nick Hornby. Once again, he uses his customary footballing and musical tropes to paint in the background; this time, however, it all seems a little too contrived and off-pat.
I bow to nobody in my admiration for "Fever Pitch", the only caveat being that it gave rise to a stream of very poor imitation memoirs by writers not in the same league as Hornby.
As far as his fiction is concerned, however, I have begun to feel that he has now written the same perfectly inoffensive, enjoyably competent novel over and over again.
Is it perhaps time for him to spread his literary wings and try to do something completely different?
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 25 February 2008
When four people decide to commit suicide by jumping off the Toppers building on New Years Eve, you get the most unlikliest mix of people you could ever imagine.
And what follows is the constant up-to-the-moment viewpoint from all four jumpees, right the way through the book.

And it's an absolute HOOT!!!

I loved it: nonsensical and silly in parts, heart-rending in others, but all in all a great fun-read. And yet there's a serious message underneath it all - but why trouble yourself with it? - just enjoy the banter and the togetherness - I couldn't wait to get back to it - it just brings a smile to your face.
Enjoy.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
New Year's Eve. Four strangers converge on a high roof, the aim suicide. This is their story, they taking turns to narrate.

Most of us know little about depression and the various forms it can take. It is thus too easy to lose patience with those so afflicted - which I am afraid I did here with three of the characters. Young Jess is obnoxious. JJ and Martin wallow in self-pity - American JJ pining for his girlfriend and his former band; Martin, ex-Breakfast TV presenter, now a pariah after conviction for under-age sex.

Eclipsing everything is the plight of drained, fifty one year old Maureen - she paying a heavy price for the only sex in her life. It resulted in severely handicapped son Matty, at present nineteen. He requires 24/7 care and, despite all her attention, has never even been aware of her. Theirs is truly a heartrending tragedy, Maureen to linger in my mind long after the others are forgotten.

Surprisingly there is much humour, which helps to alleviate. Overall, though, many may find the novel too bleak - its characters only able to survive by clutching at straws.

The state of Matty prompts deep thought about what represents life and when best to call a halt. This is probably not what the book intended but, for me, has been the result.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 9 May 2009
A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby is a book about four, very different, unhappy people who meet on New Year's Eve on the roof of `Topper's House' in London and they have all decided that they are going to kill themselves, no matter what.
The main characters are not likeable, but I think this adds to the honesty of the book, as one is a disgraced TV presenter, one has a severely disabled son, one has been dumped by her boyfriend and one wants to die but he has no real reason why. They all convince each other to come down off the roof and sort their problems out. Nobody really likes each other, but they all seem to care whether that person lives or dies and so they begin a very dysfunctional relationship which will take them to the real reason that they are unhappy and the real reason why killing themselves is not the answer.
It is a desperately sad book, but at the same time it is rather comic and funny. I liked it quite alot although I don't think it is one of Nick Hornby's best as I preferred Slam, which I think was much more realistic, but if you are looking for a good read and are ages 13-18 then this is one to look out for.
Thanks for reading.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 10 September 2007
This is the first Nick Hornby book I've read, and it's fair to say that it probably wasn't the best place to start. I've heard good things about the author before but this book infuriated me far too much. I did have a few laugh out loud moments, but not as many as I hoped, and while the premise had the potential for some great observations on the bleaker side of human nature it was largely wasted. The use of 4 seperate first person naratives just managed to annoy me as did the plain stupidy of the characters. Maybe it allows for more humour but I just found myself having no care for their outcomes and therefore the ending of the book.
From reading some truly great novels over the last few years you realise its a poor writing to continously state the obvious, but in this book it's common place, so much so that I felt I was being talked down to. Maybe I'm missing the point slightly, but if Hornby adopts a similar writing style for all his novels then in future he's an author I'm going to stay clear of.
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