Summary and book reviews of A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby

A Long Way Down

By Nick Hornby

A Long Way Down
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  • Hardcover: Jun 2005,
    352 pages.
    Paperback: May 2006,
    352 pages.

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Book Summary

In his eagerly awaited fourth novel, New York Times-bestselling author Nick Hornby mines the hearts and psyches of four lost souls who connect just when they've reached the end of the line.

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.

MARTIN.

Can I explain why I wanted to jump off the top of a tower block? Of course I can explain why I wanted to jump off the top of a tower block. I'm not a bloody idiot. I can explain it because it wasn't inexplicable: it was a logical decision, the product of proper thought. It wasn't even very serious thought, either. I don't mean it was whimsical - I just meant that it wasn't terribly complicated, or agonised. Put it this way: say you were, I don't know, an assistant bank manager, in Guildford. And you'd been thinking of emigrating, and then you were offered the job of managing a bank in Sydney. Well, even though it's a pretty straightforward decision, you'd still have to think for a bit, wouldn't you? You'd at least have to work out whether you could bear to move, whether you could leave your ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse

A Long Way Down is told from the points of view of four very different people who meet on the roof of a London building each planning to commit suicide. From this dubious beginning they form a most unlikely friendship which we see develop from their alternating points of view over 3 months.

This is one of those books that you're either going to love or hate. Take for example, the 4 big pre-publication reviewers: Publishers Weekly and Booklist give starred reviews and Kirkus Reviews describes it as "well-executed and thoughtful", but Library Journal slams it as "surprisingly tedious" and a "slip-up". Read the excerpt at BookBrowse to decide if this is likely to be a good choice for you.   (Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).

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Media Reviews
The Guardian - Joanna Briscoe

A good novel struggling to find a way out of the limitations of its own gimmick, but ultimately the conceit is so off-beam that one can almost ignore it and flow with the farce. This is an enjoyably readable, bumpy ride of a book, paradoxically both dangerously contrived and genuinely moving.

The Sunday Times - Helen Dunmore

Hornby's droll, dry, elegantly timed riffs on such things as the function of soullessness in chain cafes are a pleasure. So, too, is the fact that he is extending his fictional range. Although A Long Way Down is not an evenly successful novel, it justifies Hornby's decision to write about that misery which we have no need to beg or borrow, and which makes such strong, strange connections between one desperate soul and the next.

Library Journal - Heather McCormack

...a surprisingly tedious read...Each character takes turns narrating, a device that only exacerbates the group's sour chemistry....there are flashes of Hornby's talent for the tragicomic in Martin (an aging male in a youth-obsessed world), but overall, this is a slip-up.

Kirkus Reviews

With the exception of a perfunctory subplot about the pact's brief time in the media spotlight, this is a well-executed and thoughtful tale that never digs too deep and simultaneously doesn't denigrate the seriousness of its characters' dilemmas. Highly moving and lively storytelling: Hornby's gifts become more apparent with each outing.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. If Camus had written a grown-up version of The Breakfast Club, the result might have had more than a little in common with Hornby's grimly comic, oddly moving fourth novel....It's a thrill to watch a writer as talented as Hornby take on the grimmest of subjects without flinching, and somehow make it funny and surprising at the same time.

Booklist - Joanne Wilkinson

Starred Review. The true revelation of this funny and moving novel is its realistic, all-too-human characters, who stumble frequently, moving along their redemptive path only by increments.

Reader Reviews
Sara

=)
I am new at reviewing books, but I really liked this book. I was thrilled when the characters came out and said something like, "You may think me and Maureen end up married; that would be a happy ending. I am sorry to say, though, this does not ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Nick Hornby is the author of the novels How to Be Good, High Fidelity, About a Boy and A Long Way Down, and of the memoir Fever Pitch. He is also the author of Songbook, a finalist for a National Book Critics Circle Award, and editor of the short-story collection Speaking with the Angel. He is...

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