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A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby
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A Long Way Down (2005)

by Nick Hornby

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Four disparate characters meet on a London rooftop one New Year's Eve; each has come up there with the intention of jumping off. All have their own reasons for suicidal despair. Martin's life is in shambles since his conviction for having sex with an underage girl. Maureen can't stand taking care of her profoundly disabled son any more. JJ has lost both his band and his girlfriend, and teenage Jess has problems with sex, drugs, and parents. The four characters become comrades in the quest to determine if life is indeed worth living.

This novel is charming in its way (as charming as a novel about suicide can be), but I couldn't help but feel that all four of the main characters were a little flat. I never felt that any of them was really likely to take the plunge, so to speak. I've never read a book by Nick Hornby before, but I can't imagine that this is the well-known author's best work. ( )
  akblanchard | Sep 27, 2017 |
“Everyone knows how to talk, and no one knows what to say.”

One New Year's Eve, four very different people meet on the top of a 15-story building in London each, for varying reasons, intending to commit suicide by jumping off. This is a well known 'jumpers' spot but none of them has calculated that they might encounter company. This is the story of what happens next or perhaps what doesn't and in Hornby's distinct style is something of a playful novel about suicide.

The book has no chapters and is narrated by the voices of the four would-be suicides. Martin, the disgraced morning TV show presenter, recently released from prison where he served a sentence for having sex with a 15-year-old girl. Maureen, a single mother with a profoundly disabled son,who feels imprisoned by caring for him. Jess, a troubled 18-year-old, daughter of a politician father with a missing older sister and JJ, a failed American musician who failed to go to college and now delivers pizza.

From the beginning Hornby finds uncomfortable comedy in the four characters situation. Suicide is usually a solitary act so when Maureen discovers Martin already on the edge apparently ready to jump, she taps him on the shoulder " to ask him if he was going to be long", thus giving the reader an insight into the book's tone even if they have never read any of the author's other works.

"............You'll be wanting to do it on your own, I'd imagine.'

" 'You'd imagine right.'

" 'I'll go over there.' She gestured to the other side of the roof.

" 'I'll give you a shout on the way down.' "

All four come down from the rooftop alive and together, meaning this is not a book about suicide at all. It's more about what happens when you don't kill yourself. The four characters become a little gang who promise to support one another. One of Hornby's strengths is his sharp sense of how completely the small preoccupations of our lives become inevitably entwined with the big, serious stuff. Frankly I found the first third or so of this book a little slow but as the four of them try and help each other rebuild their lives, with some inadvertent consequences, Hornby at least avoids the temptation to suggest that everyone's' life can be successfully patched. On a down side this does mean that the ending appears a touch aimless.

I read several of Hornby's other books in the past and generally enjoy his writing style. I found this a reasonably enjoyable read and at times I read it with a smile on my face but perhaps not one of his best IMHO. ( )
  PilgrimJess | Sep 5, 2017 |
I found this book at a dollar store while buying party supplies for my son's birthday, so a decent find and a decent read, but I think I like Hornby's essay writing better than his novels thus far. ( )
  Virginia-A | Dec 21, 2016 |
This was one of the longest-standing books on my TBR, and I'm SO GLAD I finally read it. It's about four very different strangers who meet on top of a tall building on New Year's Eve, each planning to jump off - only they don't. Instead, they grudgingly head back down the stairs together, and after a rocky night, end up making a pact to stay alive until Valentine's Day and see how things go. I loved the four voices - disgraced TV presenter Martin, downtrodden Maureen, madcap young Jess and musician JJ (he was my favourite) - and the way this single shared experience unites them, separates them, brings them meaning but also trouble, creates opportunities but also slams doors. It was real and blackly humorous and strangely uplifting and I can't wait to read my next Nick Hornby novel! ( )
  elliepotten | Apr 1, 2016 |
Okay Hornby, better than his last novel. A suicide is joined by companions and in the end they all...I won't ruin it for you. Hornby is better than most of what you'll find on the supermarket shelf. Give it a read. ( )
  evamat72 | Mar 31, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 165 (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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Epigraph
The cure for unhappiness is happiness. I don't care what anyone says. --Elizabeth McCracken, Niagara Falls All Over Again
Dedication
First words
Can I explain why I wanted to jump off the top of a tower block?
Quotations
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)

(see all 3 descriptions)

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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