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3.3 out of 5 stars
3.3 out of 5 stars
A Long Way Down
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on 26 March 2015
I actually read this after seeing the film and as always the book is so much better, I loved this it was funny well written and a enjoyable book to read
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on 18 October 2017
I don't think Hornby has ever met someone below 25. The characters are weak, unbelievable and inconsistent. The plot starts the most exciting bit before spiralling into an ill thought out ramble from one ridiculous scene to another.
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on 3 July 2017
Wasn't sure if I'd like this, but have just read it in two days. Very interesting and well written. Deep and thought provoking as well as funny.
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on 16 December 2007
That's exactly it, I just didn't get the point. I took weeks reading it, because I kept getting bored after two pages as nothing of note happens. I didn't like the characters; however it did make me guffaw in places, particularly the odd witty, and rather cutting one liner's. The book is about four people who meet each other by chance at a common suicide spot, and then talk each other out of jumping to their doom. Then the book seems to just bumble along for about 250 pages, and I finished it thinking, "did anything happen?" It has actually left me feeling lethargic, I'm going off to write 250 pages (slowly) about why I feel lethargic, and endeavour to find a few laugh out loud one liners, throw them in, stir everything up and I will have a my very own version of this book, but with rubbish jokes.
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on 6 June 2005
Cards on the table 1): I'm a Hornby fan, going way back to the journlism before Fever Pitch. Notwithstanding his success in recent years I feel he's still underrated as a writer, unfairly grouped with mediocre talents from the same generation. He's possibly the only writer whose work I would buy on trust without reading a review. As was the case with 'A Long Way Down'. Live and learn though, because cards on the tale 2): this is a pretty poor book.

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...
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on 26 April 2014
The main problem I have with this book is the the ridiculous premise. While it seems like a good idea to start with it quickly begins to look very unlikely. The story basically revolves around four people who all intend to commit suicide at the same spot on New Year's Eve. They manage to stop each other from going through with it and then form a sort of support group for each other. None of it rings true. They are just too different from each other for the bond to be in anyway believable. All of the characters are whiney and self centred with the possible exception of Maureen who does at least take care of her disabled son. It's hard to care for these people and I feel that many reading the book will have even deeper problems than these characters. My dog has more to worry about than most of them. The ending has to be the worst I've ever read. It's as if he just went "that's it, I've had enough". Wish I had done that twenty pages in.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 22 January 2011
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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VINE VOICEon 18 August 2005
We all have thought of suicide at some time in our lives. Few of us ever see it through. We wake up and smell the roses, so to speak. Life is worth living and all that, and in the end, what a mess to leave your family. Nick Hornby has written a sometimes comic side to this serious issue. He has done it well, but it does drag at times. Don't take this review too seriously, please, Mr. Hornby
Martin, Jess, JJ and Margaret, 3 of them Brits and one American all meet on this fateful night. The night they choose to end their life. New Years Eve, the night of new beginnings is the evening they chose. Each of them has a good reason, or at least they think it is at the time. Well thought out, well, no, but thought out anyway. Toppers House, the roof, a tall building, well known as the place for suicide. If you are going to end your life don't you want to do it where the "in" crowd goes for their suicides? Margaret, the lonely, middle-aged woman who has had sex only once in her life, and begat a son so disabled that he knows not who or what she is. Margaret takes a bus and then walks to Topper House after she sends her son to the nursing home for the evening. She observes, Martin over by the edge of the roof. Martin, the ever tanned, ex-morning TV star who has messed up his life royally. He had an affair with a 15 year old, served time, lost his marriage and his children, what is there to live for? Soon, into this mix comes Jesse. She, of the wise-cracking, young adult, filled with many alcoholic drinks looking for her lost love. The love that she dated once and slept with once, and who left her after that date. JJ opens the roof door bringing a pizza for an inhabitant of the building. He joins the group. He is an ex-rock star in a failed band, with a failed relationship. This group had to decide who jumped first, and in the midst of the discussion tell a little bit of why they are there. After the discussion, there really isn't any need for suicide right now. So, they decide to further the discussion at Martin's house. They seemed to have lost their lust for death.
These four people have formed a union of support. Over the next three months they meet to continue the support and comical, odd ball and serious issues surface. This is a book of redemption. A serious discussion of suicide, and the lost souls who contemplate such an action. What do these four people bring to each other? Remember that old song sung by Kris Kristoffsen "Help me Make It Through The Night"? That is what this book is about. How do we make it through each day and through each night? "With a Little Help From our Friends". I am sorry, I just could not help it, I had to add that song. Trite as it may be. The book drags at times, but is so funny and so off-beat and so well written, I forgive Mr. Hornby. Recommended. prisrob
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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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on 17 May 2010
Four people bump into each other on top of a building on New Year's Eve where they all intend to commit suicide. So far, this isn't so coincidental and therefore unbelievable as this is a much favoured place for committing suicide. The cast of four is an unlikely one and consists of a TV personality, a rebellious yoof, a has been singer and a middle aged carer. It's obvious they're going to talk each other out of the big jump. Hornby does this by intertwining the stories of each as they tell their tales. The success of such a device hinges on how realistic the characters are and how strong and plausible their voices are. Here Hornby falls. The characters don't sound real and at times how they speak grates with their personas; the yoof is particularly unconvincing and therefore the most annoying. Not the best Hornby book by a long stretch.
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