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A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby

A Long Way Down (2005)

by Nick Hornby

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Showing 1-5 of 156 (next | show all)
fun read about 4 people who meet trying to commit suicide ( )
  lindaspangler | Jun 7, 2015 |
On New Years Eve, four people meet up on the top of Toppers House – a block of flats in London, which is notorious for suicidal people throwing themselves off the roof. Martin is a disgraced television presenter, whose marriage and career are in tatters after he slept with a 15 year old girl; Maureen is a single mother with a severely disabled son, and looking after him has left her with no time for a life of her own; Jess has family problems, and has also just been dumped by her first boyfriend; and JJ’s band has broken up and his girlfriend has left him. These four very different people have all decided to kill themselves, but when they all turn up at Toppers House at the same time, they decide to take the long way down (i.e., they walk down) instead. (No spoilers, don’t worry, this all happens in the first few pages.) The book then focuses on the next few months in their lives, as they try and help each other – or cause problems for each other.

I have read and enjoyed Nick Hornby’s books before, and had been meaning to read this one for, literally, years. It wasn’t what I expected – for some reason I cannot remember, I expected the whole book to take place in one night, on top of the building. The book is narrated by each of the four characters in turn, so we see certain events from multiple points of view. It’s a format that I usually like, and I think it worked well in one sense. All of the characters were very different, so it seems logical to give them all their own distinct voice. However, I have mixed feelings about the book as a whole.

I think the main issue I have is that it all seems too implausible. The premise is certainly interesting, but certain events which followed just didn’t seem very likely at all, and so I was never really able to invest in the story. Jess was such a dislikable character, that even though she really did have some major issues to deal with, I could not feel any empathy or sympathy for her whatsoever. She was completely and utterly cruel for no other reason than for the sake of being cruel. I don’t think it’s necessary to like every character, but surely they should make you feel something for them?!

On the plus side, it was an undemanding read, which sounds an odd thing to say about a book featuring four suicidal main characters, and there were some amusing moments. I liked JJ, and I felt sorry for Maureen.

Overall though, I would say this is my least favourite book out of those I have read by Nick Hornby, and something of a mixed bag. Not brilliant, not terrible, just….so-so. ( )
  Ruth72 | Apr 15, 2015 |
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 |
Showing 1-5 of 156 (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 Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:11:16 -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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