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A Long Way Down Paperback – May 2, 2006


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Riverhead Trade; Reprint edition (May 2, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594481938
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594481932
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.1 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (360 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #17,522 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

More than just a reading of Hornby's fourth novel, this audiobook is nearly an audio play with three excellent actors playing four characters. A famous pervert, an old maid, a crazy chick and a has-been rocker walk into a bar... well, they eventually do walk into a pub or two, but this disparate group of strangers first meet on a tower rooftop. Each of the quartet has independently decided to jump on New Year's Eve. Now, bonded by circumstance, they can't get rid of each other. Vance does a superb job rendering the glib tones of Martin, the TV anchor fallen from grace (he did jail time for having sex with a 15-year-old). His pompous but self-loathing delivery is dead on. Brick, with more than 150 audiobooks under his belt, perfectly nails the earnest voice and cockiness of J.J., the washed-up American rocker. And Kate Reading is outstanding playing both female characters. As Maureen, the older woman with no social life, she exudes quiet, naive dignity, but she really shines as Jess, the young wacko whose rudeness and rebellion are conveyed with a brash comical snap.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School–Four different people find themselves on the same roof on New Year's Eve, but they have one thing in common–they're all there to jump to their deaths. A scandal-plagued talk-show host, a single mom of a disabled young man, a troubled teen, and an aging American musician soon unite in a common cause, to find out why Jess (the teen) can't get her ex-boyfriend to return her calls. Down the stairs they go, and thoughts of suicide gradually subside. It all sounds so high concept, but each strand of the plot draws readers into Hornby's web. The novel is so simply written that its depths don't come to full view until well into the reading. Each character takes a turn telling the story in a distinctive voice. Tough questions are asked–why do you want to kill yourself, and why didn't you do it? Are adults any smarter than adolescents? What defines friends and family? Characters are alternately sympathetic and utterly despicable, talk-show-host Martin, particularly. The narrators are occasionally unreliable, with the truth coming from the observers instead. Obviously, a book about suicide is a dark read, but this one is darkly humorous–as Hornby usually is. Teens will identify with or loathe Jess and musician J. J., but they will also find themselves in the shoes of Maureen and Martin. This somewhat philosophical work will appeal to Hornby's fans but has plenty to attract new audiences as well.–Jamie Watson, Harford County Public Library, MD
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

Nick Hornby is the author of the novels A Long Way Down, How to Be Good (a New York Times bestseller), High Fidelity, and About a Boy, 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 also the recipient of the American Academy of Arts and Letters E. M. Forster Award, and the Orange Word International Writers London Award 2003.

Customer Reviews

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, I love Nick Hornby's humor, he's a great author.
Pillowtalk
I put this book off for awhile because I thought it was going to be one of those way to sappy insperational stories and that isn't what I really wanted to read.
Dierdra Byrd
My main problem with the story is in that I didnt really care for two of the four characters.
mcdao

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

142 of 151 people found the following review helpful By C. Johnson on June 9, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I enjoyed Hornby's inventive approach to this seemingly dark topic, suicide. I expected a somber read, but found myself laughing out loud several times. He doesn't take the questions of Life and Death too lightly, nor does he take them too seriously. He finds the perfect mix of melancholia, humor, depression, and excitement.

Hornby writes the book in first person, but the point of view is passed around between the four main characters. My main concern when I discovered this format was that I was going to be re-living events through the four characters eyes, constantly back-tracking in time to get all points of view. Fortunately, Hornby avoids this pitfall by never having the story fold back on itself. This preserves the forward motion of the story. The reader is left with the impression that four very different people have written their personal memoirs and an editor deftly pieced them together to create a moving story. We've all read books where a young girl is speaking and you just can't get it out of your head that a middle-aged man is writing how he imagines a young girl would speak. Hornby doesn't have that problem. He writes from the point of view of different ages, sexes, and nationalities. You don't feel the heavy hand of the author weighing down their words. So in the end, Hornby's fiction feels like non-fiction.

While Hornby creates and develops his convincing characters, he includes insightful commentary on current London (and global) culture, such as the "Starbuck-ing" of the world, tabloid culture, and our obsession with celebrity. He doesn't necessarily condemn these things, he just starts conversations about them, or rather his characters do.
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60 of 65 people found the following review helpful By Antoinette Klein on August 16, 2005
Format: Hardcover
When I read this was a very funny book about four people who try to commit suicide, I was intrigued. I had never read a book by Nick Hornby, but couldn't imagine how such a serious subject could be treated lightly and still be in good taste. Amazingly, Hornby seems to pull this feat off exceedingly well for even though you are saddened by their situations, the laugh-out-loud moments are many and the emotional delving that is done with intelligence and wit make this a rewarding read.

The four protagonists are: Martin, a tv talk-show host whose antics invite public humiliation; Maureen, an older woman and mother of a son who is more vegetable than human; Jess, a young girl who redefines the term deranged personality; and JJ, an American rock star wannabe dropped by both his band and his girl. When these four lost souls meet at the top of a London tower on New Year's Eve, a most unlikely bonding occurs.

Hornby explores the reasons people are brought to the brink of suicide, the reasons some jump and some don't, and most importantly, what it is that makes unhappy people keep on plugging away at finding a better life.

The writer does an excellent job of giving each of the protagonists a unique voice. While the story is told in rotation by each of the four, the reader is never confused as to the person narrating, and that is a remarkable accomplishment, especially since he writes in first person as old, young, male, and female.

Both grim and humorous, and liberally laced with pop culture references, this is a book you'll want to think about long after the last page is read.
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36 of 40 people found the following review helpful By Craig VINE VOICE on June 8, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I'd read the review for this months ago in Kirkus, and my first thought was, "How is Hornby going to pull off a book around such an odd topic?" Well, I should have known better than to worry, as Hornby pulls it off with humor and great flair.

As you probably already know, the plot involves 4 people who meet while preparing to jump to their deaths from a famous suicide spot. Instead of doing so, they band together to form one of the strangest support group/families you'll ever read about.

I think many who read this one will feel bad about laughing out loud at certain passages, given the darkness of the subject. However, the ability to make us do that, to be able to laugh at topics like death and suicide, is what makes Hornby a great writer. Even in deadly serious situations, he's able to inject his wit and make us take things just a little bit lighter.

I've been waiting for this one, and it was well worth the wait. Not only do I feel like my expectations and anxieties were met, but that they were easily surpassed. I can't recommend this one highly enough. With all the poor fiction that gets released every week, it's such a great feeling when a gem like this one comes along.
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26 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Francisco J Munoz on June 7, 2005
Format: Hardcover
As comic novels go, this book takes on a frightfully tricky subject: suicide.
On New Year's Eve in North London, four lost souls go to a roof of a particularly famous suicide point called "Topper's House" to leap - only to discover a traffic jam (themselves), and, instead of jumping, end up striking up an uneasy alliance/friendship. ("Even though we had nothing in common beyond that one thing," as the character Martin states at one point.) That's the high-concept opening and theme of this novel, in a nutshell.
The four characters:
MARTIN: a disgraced, morning talk-show host who served time in jail for sleeping with an underage girl. Divorced by his wife, humiliated by the media.
MAUREEN: a middle-aged, self-sacrificing (and long-suffering) single mom whose only son is a virtual vegetable. A Catholic who states (p. 77): "I don't believe in luck as much as punishment." She had sex once, with only one man - which resulted in a child, the cross she had to bear (and could no longer bear).
JESS: a bratty, impulsive, volatile, foul-mouthed rebel teen, daughter of a well-known government official.
JJ: a 30-ish "failed" American musician (leader of the defunct cult band, Big Yellow) - now turned pizza delivery boy. (A character most resembling Rob from High Fidelity)
The novel is told from the point of view of these four characters - that is, in alternating monologues (reminding me of William Faulkner's As I Lay Dying - one of Oprah's Summer picks).
At one point a significant reference is made to Virginia Woolf's To The Lighthouse, in which the character of Jess suggests the author "killed herself because she couldn't make herself understood."
What's unfolds then, in this novel, is the characters finding the WORDS to their despair.
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