Book Review: "A Long Way Down" by Nick Hornby

Wednesday, March 18, 2015


About a month ago, I announced on my twitter that I was going to read “A Long Way Down” by Nick Hornby published in 2005. It tells the story of four utterly different people facing various troubles in their lives. The book focuses on multiple themes and topics, but mainly on suicide, loss, strokes of fate, mistakes and also friendship.

Former TV host and ex-convict Martin Sharp, a politician’s daughter called Jess Crichton, Maureen, a single mother to a disabled child and JJ, the American who has lost his dream of becoming a famous rock star. What could those four people possibly have in common, one might ask? The answer is: Absolutely nothing, but the single wish to die. On New Year’s Eve, all four of them (one more offhanded than the other) decide to finally end their lives and thus jump from one of the most popular suicide spots to be found in London: Topper’s House. And that is exactly where all of them happen to meet. As one could imagine, things don’t go as planned and at the end of the night and the beginning of the new year, they all find themselves forming a gang and signing a pact not to kill themselves until Valentine’s Day, which is six weeks away. However, this pact doesn’t remain as secret as they hoped for as the media finds out and shows immediate interest in their story. It wouldn’t be them, though, if they couldn’t make a profit out of it and invest their earnings right away into a short holiday in Tenerife. Still, a shared holiday isn’t quite as relaxing and promising as whished if four people without any similarities or common interests happen to go on one together, so, pretty much anyone would be able to tell, that this vacation doesn’t really work out so well. Back home, the Topper’s House four try to both face and solve their problems, mistakes and old, failed relationships with, unluckily, little (or no) results. In the end, they decide to prolong the pact of their gang for another six months.

In my opinion “A Long Way Down” is a really good and entertaining novel. There are a lot of funny parts about topics that aren’t actually funny at all. For example when Martin tries to justify and defend suicide in his case, or when JJ wants to explain why suicide is the “Van Gogh route” out of life and thus only for smart and special people. I also enjoyed the parts a lot, where Jess, Martin or also JJ address the reader directly. It is, as I mentioned quite entertaining to read.
On the other hand, the book can also be very deep and it made me think a couple of times. One time, Martin told that story of the alcoholic he had once known. He told, that this man always thought if he wanted to stop drinking, he was able to and that this one way out was always there for him. However, the day he finally wanted to stop and take this route out, well, that day quickly turned into his worst, as he had to realize this escape had never existed. That made me think, because it doesn’t have to concern alcohol, but just other things in life we keep delaying and we never want to admit that there isn’t a solution or a way out, just as we always tell ourselves. Another story that had me thinking was Jess’s new acquaintance Nodog. He taught her, that there is more to a person than just one thing, one idea and one prejudice. We can change every day multiple times and it was nice to be reminded of this very special thing.
Only a few times, though, it was a bit boring to read. I happened to like Maureen the least out of the four as she seemed a little dumb and naïve to me. That is why I didn’t like those chapters very much, when a lot of her thoughts were written down.

I have to say that I am really glad I got to read this novel. It was such a great book with such amazing characters, themes and stories to it. I would recommend it to absolutely anybody who is into reading books. And even if they aren’t, this book will make them want to read again, in my opinion. It consists of the right amount of both wit and tragedy and this makes it so enjoyable and fascinating to read. Completely and downright worth to read it.

Please let me know if you enjoyed reading about this. If you want me to, I will do more reviews on books every now and then. In case you want to join me and read the next book along with me, it will be “Gone Girl” by Gillian Flynn. If you have other recommendations or books you want me to read, please let me know.

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