The storyline was definitely more character-driven than event-driven. We meet the four main characters on New Year’s Eve as each is planning to jump off a building to commit suicide. Instead, they form an unusual friendship and a sort of non-suicide pact. They get together and help each other stay alive. We follow each character on his or her journey through the book as they each find ways to deal with life and with the consequences of living.
I don’t think you could find a more motley crew if you tried. You have the washed-up ex-TV star, the want-to-be-but-failing rockstar, the spoiled and confused woman who wants to act out, and a mother who can’t take the pressure of caring for her ill child. They all have very different problems and ways of solving them. When they come together and try to help each other, the outcomes are as varied and colorful as the characters themselves.
This book is a great example of how to do character voice well. Each chapter or section was from one of the four character’s point of view, but because they were all so different in the way they acted, talked, and thought, there was no confusion as to who we were following. Overall, Hornby’s writing is clean and straight-forward, allowing the emotion and the characters to shine brighter than anything else.
This story was at times heart wrenching, but it could also be frustrating. Jess in particular seemed eager to mess up her life in every way. Martin, I kinda wanted to smack for his bull-headed stupidity. I felt pretty sorry for Maureen, and I just wanted something to happen for JJ. If nothing else, Hornby has done a great job of making the reader feel the pain that the characters do. It was nice to read a book that’s basically about suicide, but without being depressing. It’s practical and shows you that we all have something going that could make us want to jump off a building, there are others who feel the same, and there are plenty of reasons to stick around.
The Goodreads Description
New Year’s Eve at Toppers’ House, North London’s most popular suicide spot. And four strangers are about to discover that doing away with yourself isn’t quite the private act they’d each expected.
Perma-tanned Martin Sharp’s a disgraced breakfast TV presenter who had it all – the kids, the wife, the pad, the great career – and wasted it away. Killing himself is Martin’s logical and appropriate response to an unliveable life.
Maureen has to do it tonight, because of Matty being in the home. He was never able to do any of the normal things kids do – like walk or talk – and loving-mum Maureen can’t cope any more. Dutiful Catholic that she is, she’s ready to commit the ‘biggest sin of all’.
Half-crazed with heartbreak, loneliness, adolescent angst, seven Bacardi Breezers and two Special Brews, Jess’s ready to jump, to fly off the roof.
Finally, there’s JJ – tall, cool, American, looks like a rock-star, sometimes thinks he plays his guitar like one – who’s weighted down with a heap of problems, and pizza.
Four strangers, who moments before were convinced that they were alone and going to end it all that way, share out the pizza and begin to talk … Only to find that they have even less in common than first suspected.
Nick Hornby’s A Long Way Down is a novel that asks some of the big questions: about life and death, strangers and friendship, love and pain, and whether a group of losers, and pizza, can really see you through a long, dark night of the soul.
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Did you read it? What did you think?