A Long Way Down (Nick Hornby)



This book, following the fortunes of four ill-assorted characters who decide to commit suicide by jumping from a tower block on New Year’s Eve and then don’t, provoked a storm of apathy among the members of Try Books!  Not that it was the first book to do so.

An attempt to decide whether the characters had really meant to commit suicide foundered on an inability to engage with them, or to believe in them in the first place.  You might say it was a good thing to show suicidal characters as unattractive and certainly unromantic, and their non-suicide as being just that–continuing to live in the same kind of broken and unsatisfactory way, without any revelation or reward, just living.  But the book really wasn’t well enough done to make these kind of points effectively.

There was a feeling that it resembled a young person’s book–certainly families appeared from the viewpoint of children-as-victims, while the ‘adult’ characters Martin and Maureen were rather as young people might see adulthood.   While the narrative consisted of sections from each of the four in turn, they all sounded rather like Nick Hornby and they all had a clear view of what was happening.  There was none of the disorders of thought or perception you might expect from the suicidal, or even the kind of misperceptions and missing information you might expect from people in general.

Of course the answer to the original question is that they weren’t really going to kill themselves and this was pointed up by encountering a genuine suicide on a rooftop reunion.

The thing quite often had the air of a stand-up comedian doing a set on the subject of suicide, and indeed some of the Nick Hornby jokes were very good Nick Hornby jokes.

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