A Long Way Down

Are you familiar with the fiction of Nick Hornby? He is probably best known for his two novels that became films, High Fidelity and About a Boy. I recently listened to an audio version of his 2005 novel A Long Way Down. For a novel about attempted suicide, this story was a lot of fun.

The story is told in the voices of the four protagonists, all of whom meet purely by accident on the same night at the same suicide spot in London. Each intends to end it all that night, but the coincidence of their meeting prevents that, and instead they begin a fitful journey to recover from the personal demons that drew them to the edge originally.

All of that sounds grim, and it isn’t a trivial subject, but there is much humor in the telling and in the characters, all of whom realize that none had the strength to carry out their individual plans.

I thought that the four characters pretty much represented four parts of a whole person:

  • Martin – the former talk-show host who is all public face but who finds that the man behind this mask is not that nice of a person.
  • Maureen – the compassionate, caring one whose own selflessness is destroying her.
  • Jess – the primal, selfish protohuman who hasn’t learned to be other-centered.
  • JJ – the former band guitarist whose creativity is thwarted.

If these four could integrate qualities of the others into themselves, they could find the substance to carry on with their lives. Through a series of misadventures and stumbling efforts at caring for each other, they plunge into the depths of their own personalities and make the discoveries that they need.

The story ends about as you would expect, but it is really a character tale, and there is talk of a movie in the works.

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