At its heart, A Long Way Down isn't really about suicide itself anyway. All four principal characters come down from the rooftop together and alive -- at least on that first evening. It's more about what happens when you don't kill yourself, and the tale Hornby subsequently tells is an unusual and unpredictable one. The book begins with an epigraph from the novelist Elizabeth McCracken -- ''The cure for unhappiness is happiness, I don't care what anyone says'' -- but in what follows Hornby doesn't confuse the simplicity of this thought with the impossibility of sometimes living it. For all his light touches, he is never superficial enough to suggest that these lives that have fallen apart, in four of the millions of ways lives may do so, can easily be patched up and renewed. Whatever limited consolations the book's survivors find in each other, Hornby resists melodramatic resolutions or glorious moments of redemption, and he doesn't smuggle away or refute all the reasons his characters took with them to the rooftop where they met, the ones that urged them toward the edge rather than down to the ground the slow way, back into the world.
The New York Times
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. Simultaneous release with the Riverhead hardcover (Reviews, Apr. 4). (June) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
In his fourth novel, Hornby delves into even darker material than his moving divorce meditation, How To Be Good. It is New Year's Eve circa 2003, and three Londoners and one American cross paths on the roof of Topper's House, so named for its popularity as a suicide spot. Single mom Maureen has tired of caring for her severely disabled adult son, while Martin sees no way of regaining his TV career and marriage after a prison stint for statutory rape; at 18, Jess is hormonally challenged and distraught after a sudden breakup, and Georgia native JJ has lost his woman and his rock'n'roll band. Throw them all together, and you have four lives saved-but a surprisingly tedious read of their post-attempt adventures in bonding. Each character takes turns narrating, a device that only exacerbates the group's sour chemistry. Good on Hornby for not wanting to write an "inspirational" novel of disparate people coming together, but he went a little too far in delineating their differences. The tireless bickering, especially between Martin and Jess, makes one wonder why the foursome doesn't kill one another. There are flashes of Hornby's talent for the tragicomic in Martin (an aging male in a youth-obsessed world), but overall, this is a slip-up. Given Hornby's enduring popularity, however, larger libraries should order. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 2/1/05.]-Heather McCormack, Library Journal Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
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 2005 Reed Business Information.
Four suicidal depressives, meaning to do themselves in, meet on the same London rooftop-and form a pact-in an unpredictably comic fourth novel from Hornby. Except for a few mini-dissertations on rock and the Beatles, there are times when you'd hardly know that music- and pop-culture-obsessed Hornby (How to Be Good, 2001, etc.) was this story's author. It's New Year's Eve, and four people are converging on top of a building called Toppers' House. There are Jess, the slightly deranged daughter of a high-ranking politician; Martin, a former TV host just out of jail for statutory rape (girl was15, said16); JJ, a newly single Chicago musician whose band recently broke up; and Maureen, a devout Catholic and single mother raising a son who's been in a coma since birth. Needless to say, all have good reasons to off themselves (well, except JJ, which is why he pretends for a time to have a fatal illness), but coming together in such a random fashion forms a strange bond, and, instead of jumping off, they become friends, sort of. Making a pact to reassess their options in 90 days, they start meeting regularly, since there's nobody else they can talk to. Always a sucker for the happy ending, Hornby doesn't disappoint, but that's not to say he takes the easy road out. This is a group that spends more time firing caustic broadsides at each other and heaping more turmoil on their already tattered lives than in figuring out their grand purpose-and there's little in the way of epiphany awaiting them. The solution (if any) to their despair is more likely to come in a small moment of kindness than in any best-selling therapist's notion of closure. With the exception of a perfunctory subplot about thepact's brief time in the media spotlight, this is a well-executed and thoughtful tale that never digs too deep and simultaneously doesn't denigrate the seriousness of its characters' dilemmas. Highly moving and lively storytelling: Hornby's gifts become more apparent with each outing. First printing of 175,000; first serial to Best Life; author tour
“One New Year’s Eve, four people with very different reasons but a common purpose find their way to the top of a fifteen-story building in London. None of them has calculated that, on a date humans favor for acts of significance, in a place known as a local suicide-jumpers’ favorite, they might encounter company. A Long Way Down is the story of what happens next, and of what doesn’t.” —The New York Times Book Review
“It’s like The Breakfast Club rewritten by Beckett.… What makes the book work is Hornby’s refusal to give an inch to sentimentality or cheap inspirational guff.” —Time
"A dramatic, sad and thoroughly side-splitting novel." —Newsday
"Wildly enjoyable. A daring high-wire act. It's serious literature...no, it's popular entertainment...no, it's both!" —Seattle Times
"Time's stealthy tread, its unseen ability to heal some wounds while inflicting others, gives Nick Hornby's darkly comic new novel, A Long Way Down, its genuine power." —San Francisco Chronicle