Hornby, Nick. (2005) A Long Way Down. New York, NY: Viking Press. ISBN 978-1594481932.
Martin, Maureen, JJ, and Jess are four London residents who, for very different reasons, have all decided to end their lives on New Years Eve. They meet by chance on the roof of Topper’s House, a famous last stop for the suicidal in the area. Martin is a television personality who has come into some legal and martial trouble, Maureen is a single mother to a disabled child, JJ is an American stranded in London without a girlfriend, his band, or a job he finds respectable, and lastly there is Jess a young girl with exboyfriend trouble and a missing sister. These four people who seem to have nothing in common help each other hold it together.
A Long Way Down is told from the point of view of each of the main characters. The novel spends just enough time on each character as to not bore or overwhelm you. I found the layout of the book to be refreshing and engaging. Hornby denotes each person’s thoughts with their name but each character has such a unique and distinctive voice that you would know who was doing the talking without that.
Maureen is without a doubt the most relatable character in the novel because you understand where she’s coming from even if you haven’t experienced it firsthand. Even the other characters say that they can’t blame her for wanting to commit suicide. Jess is an infuriating character because she is selfish and irrational. In the beginning you think she’s foolish for wanting to kill herself but as the story progresses you often want to kill her yourself. JJ is at a low point in his life so the reader may identify with him and can probably remember a time in their life where they felt they couldn’t rebound and recover, much like how JJ feels. But, deep down you know he will because you did and so you pull for him to get back on his feet. And then there is Martin, an aging man who had it all but is out of touch with reality. If I was Martin I would probably want to end it all too but he doesn’t really help his situation. He could reclaim some semblance of his former life but he can’t or won’t or doesn’t want to. I’d probably push him off the roof with Jess. And then JJ can help Maureen take care of her son and be bff and live happily ever after.
I won’t say that A Long Way Down is unlike anything I’ve ever read before, but it was definitely one of the best books I’ve ever read. I couldn’t put it down. Page after page after page of the train wreck that is their life sustained me. I finished it in two days and was sad to see it end. I wanted more. The pace was perfect. The detail too. The character development was spot on. Bottom line, this book is fantastic. Hornby took some gloomy situations and turned it into something hilarious and beautiful. Read it before the movie comes out (Sometime in March in the UK but I don’t know about the US).
You can watch the movie trailer below! Pierce Brosnan is Martin, Toni Collette is Maureen, Imogen Potts is Jess and Aaron Paul plays JJ. I’d be laying if I didn’t say the sole reason I chose to read this book is because I heard Aaron Paul was in the movie adaptation. From the trailer it looks like this movie will not disappoint. Having read the book I think the casting for this is freaking perfect.