Book reviews

Posts tagged ‘Nick Hornby’

A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby

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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.

 

 

 

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High Fidelity by Nick Hornby

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High Fidelity is the first Nick Hornby book I’ve read, although I’ve seen the movies Fever Pitch and About a Boy, which were based on his books. (Colin Firth was in Fever Pitch, which is a good enough reason for me to watch a movie).

Rob, the hero of this book, makes me feel anxious that the men in my life are not all they appear to be. Rob worries about stupid stuff, does stupid stuff and makes lots of stupid decisions. He is a very funny character, although more in a ‘laughing at him’ than a ‘laughing with him’ way. Do men really think like Rob? My ‘laughing at him’ was more than slightly nervous.

The book starts with Rob listing his five worst breakups with women. Four of them happened when he was still in school. One of Rob’s five most heart wrenching breakups was with someone he went out with for three days when he was thirteen years old. Several days before breaking up with another girlfriend, in high school, Rob almost got a tattoo with her initials. Luckily the tattooist wasn’t convinced it was true love and the tattoo didn’t happen.

Rob’s most recent break up was with Laura and he is at great pains to let the reader know she doesn’t make his top five breakup’s list. After Laura moves out Rob is at first elated, thinking about all the things he will be able to do now, namely; smoke in their flat, shag around and paint record label logos on the lounge room wall. But despite all of his big talk about not missing Laura, Rob eventually does realise that he misses her, particularly when he learns she has been seeing someone else.

I’m on Laura’s side here. Rob is 35 years old, has a failing business and has never really taken any responsibility in his life. He is still keeping his options open emotionally, while Laura has grown up.

High Fidelity is a little dated as it was set during the nineties. Rob owns a record (vinyl) shop, people smoke cigarettes and a lot of the descriptions of clothes, music and pop culture have clearly moved on.

I actually did enjoy High Fidelity, despite feeling alternately amused by and annoyed with Rob and his insecurities. He is entertaining and his character does actually evolve as the story develops. I just wouldn’t want to go out with him.

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