A Long Way Down is the third book I’ve read by Nick Hornby. Funny Girl and High Fidelity by this author also hit the spot when I was looking for something fun to read.
I would never have expected a story about four people who are planning suicide to be funny, but A Long Way Down was laugh out loud funny. Miss S asked me a few times what I was laughing at, and very often it was hard to explain why. For example, me; “Well, these four people meet when they are planning to jump off a building, when it turns out that one of them can’t jump because the other people are looking at them.” Miss S rolled her eyes and went back to her own book. (Divergent, in case you’re wondering).
The four would-be jumpers are a diverse bunch. They include a minor celebrity who went to jail after having sex with an underage girl, a single mother of a severely disabled child, a teenage girl with mental health problems and a failed rock god. They met accidently at the top of a building colloquially known as ‘Topper’s House’ on New Year’s Eve, surprising each other as they prepared to jump.
The four ended up telling each other their stories, although one fellow greatly enhanced his reason for jumping as his real reason seemed to him a bit pathetic after hearing the others. After much discussion, they eventually all take the stairs back down together and spend the rest of New Year’s Eve together. The next morning they agree to meet regularly to provide emotional support to each other.
Parts of this book are genius. I could understand why each character wanted to jump, but was able to laugh with them too. The language is spot-on too. One of the characters is the type of person who other people apologise to every time they swear, and as three of them swear constantly, their sentences were peppered with, “Sorry Maureen.” Swearing generally annoys me, but with these characters, swearing is an integral part of who they are. I can’t imagine them not swearing
Each character’s despair was genuine too, regardless of whether their troubles were self-inflicted or because of their lot in life.
One of the characters doesn’t sugar coat her words, and while empathising with another, described his situation as follows, “You thought you were going to be someone, but now it’s obvious you’re nobody.” Harsh, but true, especially when fame and fortune are a character’s goal.
I won’t spoil this for anyone else by saying if any of the characters eventually jump or not, but I’m glad they took the stairs back down on New Year’s Eve. I loved this dark comedy, and look forward to reading other Nick Hornby books.