A Long Way Down is told from the perspective of 4 individuals who all meet on New Years Eve on the rooftop of a building. Martin is a disgraced daytime TV star who has recently been released from prison for having sex with a 15 year old girl – a girl who, he claims, looked older than 15 and told him she was older than 15. Maureen is a mother of a young boy called Matty who is disabled and has brain damage – he is in a vegetative state but is the only person she has for company and she seems very lonely. Jess is having a hard time at home, with her missing older sister and parents who, she believes, love her sister more than her and rejection from Chas, the boy she likes. Finally JJ is an Australian pizza delivery man who has just been dumped by his girlfriend and whose band and life in general doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. They are all there on that rooftop for the same reason- to jump off it. They decide to delay the big jump until Valentine’s Day, reasoning that if they still felt like killing themselves after this point then they could go ahead and do it when they meet up again then.
As the novel continues the 4 characters become what could be defined as ‘friends’ – though Martin is quick to play this down in his self-important, snobby way – and their journey trying to rediscover each of their own purposes in life are at times funny and poignant.
I really enjoyed reading A Long Way Down from start to finish. For a book with such a serious subject matter, the storyline never seems unnecessarily glum or depressing, though there are points that really made me feel quite emotional. I felt empathy for all the characters in different ways, despite feeing that Martin had somewhat brought it on himself and Jess was being incredibly over-dramatic and rude at times. JJ is a likeable character but he also seems to have enough to live for really – in my opinion it is only Maureen who seems to have a ‘good enough’ reason to be depressed, and JJ touches upon this when he first meets the other 3, as he makes up an incurable illness as he is suddenly aware that his reasons for wanting to commit suicide don’t seem as tangible as other people’s. It’s like a bizarre game of ‘who has the worst life’, as the following quote from JJ demonstrates:
It wasn’t like people were being competitive, exactly, but there was a certain amount of, I don’t know what you’d call it…marking out territory?… I’d been dumped by a girl, and my band wasn’t going anywhere. Big fucking deal.
The writing style is easy and often very humorous, in true Nick Hornby style, and I (and a few friends who also read it) raced through the book! When we discussed the story we had a lot to comment on and it made me realise that, although it’s a humorous novel which is often classed as ‘lad-lit’, there are a lot of deeper, more meaningful points to discuss and we found that it’s the type of book that everyone can relate to in one way or the other! A Long Way Down was an easy to read novel that provided many laughs whilst also proving to be thought-provoking and emotional, and I really enjoyed it!
I know they’ve made a film based on the book and I’m really not sure what to think – if I’m being honest I thought the trailer made the film look awful, but it’s hard to tell from a trailer alone. I will probably give it a watch sometime and compare the two; though I’m sure the film won’t beat the book I would be interested to see if/how they’ve changed any of the storyline or characters.
Have you read A Long Way Down? What did you think?