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A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby

A Long Way Down (2005)

by Nick Hornby

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I won this book in the Goodreads giveaway and was looking forward to reading it since I thought the description sounded interesting. A Long Way Down is the story of 4 people that meet on the roof of the Toppers House where they have gone to commit suicide and their ensuing relationships and connection as a result of that night. What could have been an excellent storyline fell apart quickly. The plot was pointless and weak and the characters quite annoying. There was nothing likeable about any of them and I longed for one of them to jump just to add some interest. I struggled to finish this book and have to say I was quite disappointed and probably will not read any other Hornby books. ( )
  kremsa | Mar 6, 2015 |
A very enjoyable book despite its topic - 4 people intent on suicide who meet each other on the roof of a building on New Years Eve. This book has been made into a film but the book is so much better as it is more realistic and doesn't tie off all of the loose ends with pretty, happy bows. There is hope but in a very real way if that makes any sense. ( )
1 vote PennyAnne | Mar 1, 2015 |
Review: This is the story of Martin, Maureen, Jess, and JJ who meet on top of a 15-story building, New Years Eve, with the intent of suicide. Martin is a well known TV Morning show host who has ruined his life with some pretty poor decisions, Maureen is a 51 year old woman who has grown tired of her life, Jess is the second daughter of a politician and is really messed up and JJ is a pizza deliverer who happens upon the other three when he comes up to the roof to check out the possibilities before he delivers the pizza.
This book is dark humor and contains excessive swearing which I do not feel adds to the story but actually deflects if you’re a person who is put off but then I guess the author doesn’t give a …., does he. Well I read this book expecting to hate it. It’s the October 2014, F2F book club pick. The first sentence, “Can I explain why I wanted to jump off the top of a tower block?” is the approach I used for reading this book. Does suicide deserve to be the subject of dark humor? What is the purpose of dark humor? Well dark humor is that which makes light of that which is otherwise a serious subject so, okay, guess that it works. Because I work in mental health and have had several patients who suicide, I am a suicide survivor. The statistics say that mental health professionals will experience suicide in their practice from 28 to 50%. The book starts out with the argument of suicide as logical decision. Who has four people representing younger people and older people and male female and examines reasons why these people ended up on the roof and why they got there and why they took the long way down (walked down).


“Just ….things are different. Things change. The exact arrangement of stuff that made you think your life was unbearable...It’s got shifted around somehow.”

“He said that two seconds after jumping, he realized that there was nothing in his life he coudln’t deal with, no problems he couldn’t solve--apart from the problem he’d just given himself by jumping off the bridge.”

“They love life, but it’s all **** up for them, that’s why I emt them, and that’s why we’re all still back into life, and being shut out of it like that…..It just ****ing destroys you, man. So it’s an act of despair, not an act of nihilism. It’s a mercy killing, not a murder.”

“These things can only be coincidental if you think you have no power over your life at all”.

Last words “It didn’t look as though it was moving, but it must have been, I suppose.” My thought on this, this last sentence takes us back to why someone might want to jump...they quit seeing that things change.
What I didn’t like: well of course the swearing, I actually didn’t mind the sexual content, I thought it was well done and fairly true to life. The author did a lot of name dropping. He listed large quantities of books, a lot of them from 1001 Books, movies, TV and rock star personalities. There was a lot of English sayings that if I didn’t google them, I was only guessing what they might mean. ( )
  Kristelh | Oct 18, 2014 |
This is the fifth Hornby book I've read. High Fidelity and About a Boy were hugely entertaining, although to tell the truth I don't remember much about either of them, and sometimes I get the books and movies confused; How to Be Good and Juliet Naked were less entertaining, but had some interesting ideas and held my interest. This book is something else. I loved it. I'm not sure why.

I have a such a positive emotional reaction to this book that I am reluctant to disturb my sense of its wholeness with over-analysis, but after reading so much negative commentary I feel a duty to put in my two cents on the other side.

For one, I think the construction is perfect. I was so pleasantly surprised when the media firestorm just blew over and didn't become a major plot point, and when JJ's revelation about his disease also blew over in one (very funny) conversation. These crises which seemed so distracting in the moment weren't the real story. I liked it that none of the characters liked each other, but they all recognized they needed each other, at least for 90 days. They weren't friends, they didn't enjoy each other's company, they didn't learn much from one another, but they gave each other a place where they could be honest without the baggage of friendship or love or the need to impress anyone. They gave each other a place where they could discuss wanting to jump off a building. So, even though they didn't learn anything from one another, they gave each other a place where each person could learn about himself.

I also liked how some of the most important revelations came right at the end of book. For example, I think it is pretty huge that Chaz was Jess's first "full-on" sexual experience; given how alone and damaged she already was when that happened, you can see how earth-shaking it would have been to have something that momentous and intimate go so wrong. The reader doesn't find that out it until her last chapter, and even then only as an aside. That's because this 90 days hasn't been about dealing with their past. It's been about dealing with their depression.

UPDATE: After writing this review, I listened to the entire audiobook again (skipping some of Maureen's entries and the bit with the angel) and love it all the more. One thing I noticed on second read was how crucial the vacation is to both the structure and themes of the book. Thematically, of course, it was perfect: All a vacation had to offer these four people was an opportunity to feel even worse about themselves. Structurally, their breakup felt so natural that I struggled to remember how they ever got back together -- ah, right, it was what they witnessed Valentine's Day. That brought them back together, possibly for life, at a time when they otherwise would have gone their separate ways. And what would have happened to them then? I think Martin and Jess probably would have come to their revelations another way -- although maybe not -- and Maureen and JJ would have been doomed, because they needed the intervention to move forward. I have lived with these characters in my head for weeks, sleeping and waking, and it is taking a lot of self-control not to listen to the book a third time. There is so much in there I would like to think about more. For now I am focusing on one of JJ's revelations: Even if you have wasted your life, humiliated yourself, and/or have nothing to lose, The trick is to see that you’re still entitled to your three-score years and ten anyway. ( )
1 vote read.to.live | Aug 28, 2014 |
-Meet Martin, JJ, Jess and Maureen. Four people who come together on New Year’s Eve: a former TV talk-show host, a musician, a teenage girl, and a mother. They encounter one another on the roof of Topper’s House, a London destination famous as the last stop for those ready to end their lives. Hornby tells the story of four individuals confronting the limits of choice, circumstance and their own mortality. This book pretty much restored some faith in modern novels for me. The unique four-character narrative and the flow of the text, dialogue and story make it riveting and comfortable at the same time. The situations are outrageous and moving but not unbelievable. Well-written all around, a very tight package. It is easy to see why they keep making movies from his work. ( )
1 vote loafhunter13 | Jul 28, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 154 (next | show all)
...Hornby doesn't confuse the simplicity of this thought with the impossibility of sometimes living it. For all his light touches, he is never superficial enough to suggest that these lives that have fallen apart, in four of the millions of ways lives may do so, can easily be patched up and renewed. Whatever limited consolations the book's survivors find in each other, Hornby resists melodramatic resolutions or glorious moments of redemption, and he doesn't smuggle away or refute all the reasons his characters took with them to the rooftop where they met, the ones that urged them toward the edge rather than down to the ground the slow way, back into the world.
added by lorax | editNew York Times, Chris Heath (Jun 12, 2005)
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The cure for unhappiness is happiness. I don't care what anyone says. --Elizabeth McCracken, Niagara Falls All Over Again
First words
Can I explain why I wanted to jump off the top of a tower block?
That’s the thing with the young these days, isn’t it? They watch too many happy endings. Everything has to be wrapped up, with a smile and a tear and a wave. Everyone has learned, found love, seen the error of their ways, discovered the joys of monogamy, or fatherhood, or filial duty, or life itself. In my day, people got shot at the end of films, after learning only that life is hollow, dismal, brutish, and short.
I once asked dad what he'd be doing if he wasn't working in politics and he said he'd be working in politics and what he meant, I think, is that wherever he was in the world, whatever job he was doing, he'd still find a way back, in the way that cats are supposed to be able to find a way back home when they move house. He'd be on the local council or he'd give out pamphlets or something. Anything that was a part of that world, he'd do.
We all spend so much time not saying what we want because we know we can't have it. And because it sounds ungracious or ungrateful or disloyal or childish or banal … Go on, say what you want. Maybe not out loud if it's going to get you into trouble. “I wish I'd never married him.” “I wish she was still alive.” “I wish I'd never had kids with her.” “I wish I had a whole shitload of money.” “I wish all the Albanians would go back to fucking Albania.” Whatever it is, say it to yourself. The truth shall set you free. Either that or it'll get you a punch on the nose.
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Book description
Meet Martin, JJ, Jess, and Maureen. Four people who come together on New Year's Eve; a former TV talk show host, a musician, a teenage girl, and a mother. Three are British, one is American. They encounter one another on the roof of Topper's House, a London destination famous as the last stop for those ready to end their lives. In four distinct and riveting first-person voices, Nick Hornby tells a story of four individuals confronting the limits of choice, circumstance, and their own mortality. This is a tale of connections made and missed, punishing regrets, and the grace of second chances. Intense, hilarious, provocative, and moving, 'A Long Way Down' is a novel about suicide that is, surprisingly, full of life.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0140287027, Paperback)

The story is written in the first-person narrative from the points of view of the four main characters, Martin, Maureen, Jess and JJ. These four strangers happen to meet on the roof of a high building called Topper's House in London on New Year's Eve, each with the intent of committing suicide. Their plans for death in solitude are ruined when they meet. The novel recounts their misadventures as they decide to come down from the roof alive - however temporarily that may be.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:32:38 -0400)

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Meet Martin, JJ, Jess, and Maureen. Four people who come together on New Year's Eve: a former TV talk show host, a musician, a teenage girl, and a mother. Three are British, one is American. They encounter one another on the roof of Topper's House, a London destination famous as the last stop for those ready to end their lives. This is a tale of connections made and missed, punishing regrets, and the grace of second chances.… (more)

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