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A Long Way Down

by Nick Hornby

A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby X
A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby
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  • First Published:
    Jun 2005, 352 pages
    Paperback:
    May 2006, 352 pages

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Well-executed and thoughtful. Novel

From the book jacket: 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. This is a tale of connections made and missed, punishing regrets, and the grace of second chances.

Comment: 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".

Personally, I enjoyed it very much. I listened to it as an audio book read by Simon Vance, Kate Reading and Scott Brick (which was a little confusing as Brick is also the narrator of Sean Wilsey's autobiography, Oh The Glory of It All, and having finished listening to Oh The Glory of It All just before listening to A Long Way Down, I associated Scott Brick's voice so strongly with Sean Wilsey that I kept finding myself wondering why Sean was about to jump off a roof! I'm having the same trouble listening to This Book Will Save Your Life by A.M. Homes at the moment - it's a fun book except that it too is read by Scott Brick who, it seems, will forever be Sean Wilsey in my mind!)

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.

Looking back on the book I find it interesting to realize that what kept me listening was the character of Maureen, who Hornby describes as "the soul of the book". To begin with I really didn't have much interest in the lives of the other characters, I didn't particularly like them and as a result really couldn't feel all that sympathetic to their problems. However, I was so caught up in Maureen's story and her observations that overtime I found myself caring for all four!

This review was originally published in The BookBrowse Review in June 2005, and has been updated for the May 2006 edition. Click here to go to this issue.

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