Updated on May 19, 2015
8. ‘A Long Way Down’ by Nick Hornby
It’s New Year’s Eve and shamed ex-TV star, Martin, climbs to the roof of Toppers House and prepares to throw himself off. But he’s not alone. Before long he’s been joined by Maureen, a single mum longing to escape a life of looking after her near-comatose son; JJ, a failed rockstar from America; and Jess, a teenager who has just been through a messy break up. The four climb down from the roof together, but it’s not over yet. They still plan to return to the roof and end it, but, in the meantime, they form an unlikely bond that could save them all.
A Long Way Down isn’t exactly a happy book. In fact, it’s full of lots of harsh truths about life and failure that will get anybody thinking. Neither is it the happy-go-lucky tale of four strangers who rediscover the joys of life together and waltz off into the sunset with nary a care in the world. No, Nick Hornby deals with the realities of depression and suicide unflinchingly, telling his story from the perspective of each of his main characters: their thoughts and assessments of each other are raw and truthful.
The group start out as four people, flung together by chance and circumstance, and they remain that way throughout the book. There’s no shying away from the fact that these are four very different people with very different lives, and they continue to bicker and fall out with other all the way through. They don’t find each other and realise that, in the joys of friendship they can forget all their problems: that would be far too neat a conclusion. But they do need each other, if only to have someone to tell them the truth about themselves, in a way that someone who loves them cannot.
I can’t pick a favourite character; they’re all so interesting and distinctly drawn. There’s something alienating and something endearing about all of them – as with any real person – and they’re all determined to stay away from simple, trite answers. In many ways this is a complex tangle of a book, with a strong undercurrent of injustice and anger running through it, and ultimately a messy sense of redemption. I loved it from the first page.
If you liked my review, why not read the book and let me know what you think?