A Long Way Down – Nick Hornby

February 16, 2009 Reading Nook, Review 27

Title: A Long Way Down
Author: Nick Hornby
Date Finished: Feb 14, 2009 #7
Published: 2005 Pages: 333
Rating: 2.5/5

Four people meet on top of a popular suicide building on New Years Eve, and although none of these four know each other, they all have the same intention of jumping. These characters couldn’t be more different from one another: Martin is a divorced middle-aged celebrity who has just gotten out of prison for sleeping with a fifteen year old; Maureen is the mother of a disabled teenager and hasn’t had a social life–or any life in nineteen years; Jess is a teenaged troublemaker whose sister disappeared a few years prior, and JJ is an American whose band just broke up and his girlfriend has left him.

When the four get to talking on top of the roof, they learn that maybe they can help one another for the next six weeks when they will reevaluate their lives and decide whether or not they still want to commit suicide. Throughout the rest of the novel, the characters band together to fix some of the messes that they’ve made and even make right out of a few wrongs. But in the end will it be enough for these characters to find a reason to live?

It sounds like a depressing novel, but it really isn’t. Hornby has a dark kind of humor that lets the reader know that–hey, it really isn’t as bad as it seems. Each character has his own voice in the novel as each chapter is written from a different character’s point of view, so not only did I get to see the character through his/her own eyes, but also each character through the others’ eyes. One of my favorite aspects of a book is point of view, and I think that Hornby does a great job of giving each character a distinct and unique voice.

In the end, though, it didn’t keep me interested enough in the story. I sometimes found myself forcing my way through each chapter to try and figure out just exactly where this unlikely story was going. I didn’t care about most of the characters, particularly Martin and Jess who I strongly disliked, and for such a serious topic (ie suicide), I thought the plot was rather superficial. Grrrr! I know others really love Hornby, and I enjoyed High Fidelity when I read it two years ago, but I was really disappointed in this one. I did, however, get a kick out of the literature/music references in the book and particularly loved JJ’s thoughts on reading:

“Why does reading freak people out so much? Sure, I could be pretty antisocial when we were on the road, but if I was playing a Game Boy hour after hour, no one would be on my case. In my social circle, blowing up ****ing space monsters is socially acceptable in a way that American Pastoral isn’t” (193).

Yes, JJ. My thoughts exactly! Do I recommend this one? If you’re a Hornby fan, go for it. Otherwise, I don’t know if I’ll be passing this one on or keeping my copy. And another warning–the language is incredibly bad. I’m not a prude when it comes to language, but it is quite excessive.

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Booo! I hate writing reviews like this. And maybe it is exacerbated by my blogging slump of late. I’ve hardly been on my reader at all the past few weeks. And I hate that, but I’m finding myself a little discouraged at my lack of “free” time and the amount that my favorite bloggers post. :) This is not a gripe at you guys, but I am having to figure out the best way to read the blogs that I love. It may come down to skipping meme posts–the Monday Musings, Library Loot, Friday Fill-ins, etc. Or picking one or two posts from a blogger a week instead of trying to catch up with 7 posts at the end of the week? Anyway, for now I’ve just been avoiding. And although you probably don’t notice my absence, I notice and it bugs me.

How do you keep up with blogging without it running your life?

27 Responses to “A Long Way Down – Nick Hornby”

  1. bermudaonion

    Sorry the book didn’t work for you. Hey, figure out what works for you and don’t worry about it. When I’ve been out of town and away from my reader for a few days, I pick and choose posts to read.

  2. Laura

    Well, I’m really glad I didn’t choose this one for our book club! And, I don’t think I’ll be in any hurry to read this one. Thanks for your honesty though! :)

    You know you can always skip my posts (as few and far between as they are), and we can just talk about our books at work!

  3. Nymeth

    I haven’t read this one yet, but several Nick Hornby fans have told me it’s their least favourite…so don’t be discouraged :P

    As for blogging…I guess the best thing to do is try not to let it feel like work. I mean, I know you feel pressured to read all those posts because you DO want to read them, but give yourself permission to skip however many you want or to wipe your reader clean if it gets to be too much. I know I’ll understand, and I’m pretty sure everyone else will too.

    And just so you know, I did notice your absence! But in the best possible way. As in, “Where’s Trish? I miss her posts” rather than “That Trish is neglecting us!” :P

  4. Trish

    *Bermuda – Being out of town definitely makes coming back to reader difficult! :)

    *Booklogged – Ya, a little disappointed about the book. Have you read any Hornby?

    *Laura – Yes, you definitely made the right choice for the bookclub!! I think there would have been a lot for us to talk about, but the book was kind of blah–and the language! Eeeks!

    *Nymeth – I have About a Boy on the shelf and am looking forward to that one. I’m definitely not done with Hornby yet! In terms of blogging, there just needs to be more hours in the day!! :) I’m sure I’ll come back around soon–it was only a couple of weeks ago that I was on top of everything!

  5. samantha.1020

    Trish- I have a few blogs that I check throughout the week. The rest of my blogs I usually check on Sunday and I try to comment on at least one post that interests me. The rest of the posts I may read or skip. Just depends on my mood. Hope you figure out your happy medium :)

  6. Thoughts of Joy

    I noticed your absence and missed you. :)

    LOL at Booklogged’s comment.

    And, that’s no fair Laura!

    I have a plethora of blogs on my Google Reader, just like everybody else it seems, but I do not read every blog post – it’s physically impossible. I click on them and breeze through until something strikes my fancy. Even if I do read a particular post, it doesn’t mean I comment. Like Samantha – if the mood strikes, I will. :)

    Do whatever works for you, Trish. I, for one, am happy that you are a part of the blogosphere, so do whatever you can, whenever you can, when you feel like it. :)

  7. C.B. James

    I know what you mean about blogs sucking up all of your life.

    For a while I tried to read everything certain blogs posted, but the list grew too long to keep up with. I’ve added a widget that posts my blogroll based on most recent updates. I’ve set it to display the most recent 25. When I have time to read blogs I read those. I figure that keeps me generally up to date and that I get to everyone probably once a week at least.

    And I can handle it. Google Reader overwhelmed me so I’ve stopped using it.

  8. verbatim

    Yes, we missed you, Trish! I always read your reviews, but seldom read Monday Musings, etc., and that applies to the other blogs I read as well, so nothing personal. Remember, you owe no obligation to anyone to blog! I assume you started doing this because you love books, not because you love blogging or memes. Sometimes we all need a little respite, even from the things/people we love, right?

  9. Trish

    *Sam – Usually I’ve been pretty good about keeping up, but it seems like people are posting more often now than they used to. I don’t know how people manage to find the time to post every day–or sometimes multiple times in a day!! That’s what I’m having a hard time keeping up with–the volume of posts. I really only subscribe to about 40 blogs.

    *Joy – Haha–not sure what I would do without my daily dose of Laura. :) AND she was sweet enough to let me borrow Sunday at Tiffany’s that you sent to her. I just might like this audiobook business! And I’ll be back around soon–I just get really overwhelmed sometimes.

    *CB – I like Google Reader for a lot of reasons, but I’m going to have to figure out how to cut back without feeling so guilty. Wait–why do I feel so guilty in the first place? I think I’m just crazy. :)

    *Verbatim – Funnily enough, I haven’t really been posting any less–except maybe a meme here or there, but my commenting has gone WAY down. I don’t participate in many of the extra memes because I don’t have time, so why do I feel like I should comment on other peoples? I do love blogging…a lot…but I hate for it to become a chore.

  10. Melody

    Sorry to hear the book doesn’t work for you, Trish. The premise does sounds promising, it’s too bad that it ended up that way. Oh well, we do come across books like that at certain times…

    Yes, I’ve been wondering about you. :) And I totally understand about catching up on blogs reading… just do whatever you think it’s right and don’t feel pressurized or guilty about it. :)

  11. Kim L

    I was just thinking that the premise of that book just doesn’t grab me. It sounds a little contrived.

    And I hear ya. I am struggling with blogging. I have to skip most memes and just look at the most recent posts or I go crazy. It’s hard, but I have too many other things going on right now!

  12. Lisa

    I noticed you weren’t commenting!

    I tend to skip the weekly memes, except for The Sunday Salon. Especially that grab the nearest book and post page 152, lines 4-7 thing. I have often thought that I wished I could filter Reader just not to show me those. I also skip most author interviews, definitely the ones who have been interviewed on 10 different blogs. Just that cuts down on a LOT.

  13. Bookfool

    I think this book is a love/hate book — people either think it’s wonderful or really dislike it. I’m in the love category. I don’t know why it worked for me, in spite of the language, but there’s only been one Hornby book I disliked, so far — the one with two rings on the cover. Can’t remember the name, but it just hit a bit too close to home.

  14. Bookfool

    Oh, totally forgot — I’m having the same trouble keeping up. I’ve chosen a few specific post types to skip; that does help. I don’t really like reading challenge posts, so that was the first to go. Reviews and chatter about life are my favorites.

  15. Trish

    *Melody – I’m going to try and catch up this week. I’ll probably clear a lot of the posts from the past two weeks and start over, but I miss being around!!

    *Kim – It was very contrived, but I’m not sure how it could have been any other way. Have you read any Hornby? I’ve heard great things about his other stuff.

    *Lisa – I’ll be back–it is just overwhelming to read all the posts and have 30 new ones the next morning! And yes, I agree that the things you mention can definitely be skipped most of the time.

    *Bookfool – I’m glad you liked it! I searched for reviews on my reader, but I didn’t see any–so I’m sorry if I missed yours. I love the chatter about life–I think those are my favorite posts. :)

  16. Anna

    I’ve never read anything by this author, and I think I’ll pass on this one. The excessive language would probably be a turn-off, though bad language doesn’t always bother me in books.

    I often fall behind in blog reading. There’s just so much family and work stuff I have to do, and I can’t always keep up. I make sure to read a post or two from my favorite bloggers, but there’s nothing wrong with skipping posts when you have to.

    –Anna
    Diary of an Eccentric

  17. Darlene

    Sorry the book didn’t work for you Trish. You know with the blogging lately if there are a lot of posts I just pick and choose some. There are some blogs I comment on no matter what. With work and even just wanting time to open a book, there isn’t always the time to spend in the google reader. Don’t worry about it and do your best. I do miss seeing you around as often though.

  18. Michelle

    Oh, I like Nick Hornby. I have gotten over my funk now, but I do find that there are a LOT of posts to keep up on, but I miss your great comments! Did you hear Monica had her baby? On Feb 16. Leila Rae Holt. I can’t wait to get my hands on her and smother her with love! Any plans for you to travel to Utah soon?

  19. Joanne ♦ The Book Zombie

    Too bad this book wasn’t that great for you, hopefully your next read will be much better.

    I’ve had some hard times keeping up with the google reader. When that happens I usually just clear out the memes and some of the posts where I didn’t have anything all that original to say. It’s so easy to fall behind, but I think everyone has gone through this before and understands when someone isn’t around as much. Don’t worry on it, just remember it’s meant to be fun :)

  20. Lesley

    I haven’t read any of Hornby’s fiction, but I have read two of his collection of essays on reading and loved them both. Someday I’make the leap to his fiction!

    I sometimes wonder how the more prolific book bloggers do it as well! I have a hard enough time keeping us with just my book review entries, so I don’t even bother with all the memes and weekly stuff – I know I would not be able to keep up. On the down side, I know I am missing out on some of the community aspect of the book blogging world by (not) doing that.

  21. Stephanie

    I’m a really big Hornby fan, and I thought this one was just so-so. Definitely not his best work.

    I wouldn’t worry about not hitting all the blogs. I do my best, but I’m sporadic at best. Do what you can….but I do enjoy seeing your comments!

  22. Trish

    *Anna – bad language doesn’t really bother me as much as it might bother others, but in this book it seemed very frivolous to me. I wish there were more hours in the day to play around in the blogosphere, for sure!

    *Dar – I used to really try and post a comment on most or all of the posts in my google reader, but it seems like lately people are posting more often–sometimes multiple times a day, and I just can’t keep up with that. I wish I could be more involved!

    *Michelle – Yay for Monica!! My mom emailed me right after I got your comment. I don’t have any plans to get out to UT any time soon, but I’d really like to. Maybe in April or so?? Have you read High Fidelity? I really liked that one.

    *Joanne – Thanks for the reassurance. I’m hoping that on Saturday while hubby is at the car show (without me…yippee!!) that I’ll be able to finally catch up on some bloghopping. I think next month will definitely be a lot better!

    *Lesley – I often feel that I am missing out as well, but it is very time consuming and I’ve been trying not to spend so much time in front of the computer this year. I know that some of the more prolific bloggers treat blogging kind of like a job! Anyway, this Hornby book didn’t do it for me, but I’d recommend High Fidelity. I’d like to make it around to his non-fiction someday.

    *Stephanie – Ah…you added a picture! Lovely! I know you understand where I’m coming from! And you’ve got three little kiddos–you’re definitely a superwoman in my book. Do you have a favorite Hornby book?

  23. Susan

    I struggle with the same problem! How do I keep abreast of new posts, and still blog myself, and have a life? or read books? I haven’t quite found the right balance yet – it’s a work in progress.

    I read the Hornby book A Long Way Down – it is my least favourite, and I really didn’t like it much – not only does depression run in my family, but I thought it was actually a silly premise. That being said, I did read it because it was Hornby (and a gift from my husband who bought it because it was by Hornby, he didn’t read what it was about!), and he manages to make it palatable. Thanks for your review, Trish!

  24. Rhinoa

    I am a big Nick Hornby fan, but this definitely wasn’t one of his best. Maybe try About a Boy which is more on form like High Fidelity.

  25. Trish

    *Susan – I agree with what you said about this book, but I hope to find some other Hornby ones that I like better. I really enjoyed High Fidelity. B

    *Rhinoa – I have About a Boy on the shelf, so that will probably be my next one. I really enjoyed the movie, so I’m sure I’ll like the book as well.

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