- Audio Download
- Listening Length: 8 hours and 14 minutes
- Program Type: Audiobook
- Version: Unabridged
- Publisher: Penguin Books Limited
- Audible.co.uk Release Date: 6 Feb. 2014
- Language: English
- ASIN: B00HVSABFI
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank:
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A Long Way Down Audiobook – Unabridged
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Audio Download, Unabridged
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Where to begin ? I guess as a novel it simply doesn't convince. The opening scene feels like a device to bring four fairly uninteresting characters together so that we can observe their developing but deeply unlikely relationship. (In this it reminded me of Ian McEwan's Enduring Love, another book I cast aside with relief, whose balloon opening smacked of some kind of five finger exercise.). The book feels tired too - the characters themselves paper thin, the dialogue unconvincing, the set pieces both flat and desperate (the trip to Spain ? Do me a favour...), the plot development negligible, the once charming, now tiresomely predictable references to the Hornby musical yardstick against which all characters must be validated... The mechanics of using perspectives from all four characters just felt clumsy, robbed the book of forward momentum and made it hard to engage properly with any of them, but maybe it was easier to fill the pages that way - a supermarket trolley with four wonky wheels was the image that came to mind. Or a kind of Jacqueline Wilson for grownups, with its ishoo-driven plot and its shouty dialogues and its grimy backdrops. In passing, wheelchair users get frequent roll-on parts in her books too, but are rarely treated so dismissively or patronisingly as Hornby treats Matty (and indeed Maureen) here.
I suppose the worst thing is that I can hardly be bothered writing this review. I fell like a restaurant critic having to review warmed up leftovers. I'm hoping this is the end of a phase for Nick Hornby and not a jumping of the shark. I hope someone boots him in a new direction for his next book. Or than he returns to journalism which is where I sense his heart really lies. 'How To be Good' was an interesting experiment. This isn't. Must do better next time...
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.