A Long Way Down Paperback – 6 Apr 2006
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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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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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
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.
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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Funnily enough, this is my second suicide related book of the year. This one has a very different feel to the first. Read morePublished 4 months ago by nigel p bird
miserableness , didn't find the writing rescued it but probably just didn't like the subject or characters. Never felt much hope for it as I was reading it eitherPublished 6 months ago by H McNestry
Unexpected book about four strange and unlikely friends. Makes you appreciate things aren't so bad and you can overcome things.Published 12 months ago by Teresa
Well, I read it, and Nick Hornby is definitely the writer du nos jours. However, books last a very long time and there are all sorts of legal ramifications.Published 12 months ago by Dan Smith