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Cover image for A long way down
Format:
Title:
A long way down
Author:
ISBN:
9781573223010

9781573223027

9781594633560

9781594481932
Publication Information:
New York : Riverhead Books, 2005.
Physical Description:
333 pages ; 21 cm
Summary:
Meet Martin, JJ, Jess, and Maureen. Four people who come together on New Year's Eve: a former TV talk show host, a musician, a teenage girl, and a mother. Three are British, one is American. They encounter one another on the roof of Topper's House, a London destination famous as the last stop for those ready to end their lives. This is a tale of connections made and missed, punishing regrets, and the grace of second chances.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR UG 5.3 14 103440.
Holds:

Available:*

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FIC HORNBY
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FICTION - HORNBY
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FICTION - HORNBY
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FIC HORNBY 2005
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FICTION HORNBY
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Hornby, N.
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HORNBY
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HORNBY
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On Order

Summary

Summary

In his eagerly awaited fourth novel, New York Times -bestselling author Nick Hornby mines the hearts and psyches of four lost souls who connect just when they've reached the end of the line.

Meet Martin, JJ, Jess, and Maureen. Four people who come together on New Year's Eve: a former TV talk show host, a musician, a teenage girl, and a mother. Three are British, one is American. They encounter one another on the roof of Topper's House, a London destination famous as the last stop for those ready to end their lives.

In four distinct and riveting first-person voices, Nick Hornby tells a story of four individuals confronting the limits of choice, circumstance, and their own mortality. This is a tale of connections made and missed, punishing regrets, and the grace of second chances.

Intense, hilarious, provocative, and moving, A Long Way Down is a novel about suicide that is, surprisingly, full of life.

What's your jumping-off point?

Maureen
Why is it the biggest sin of all? All your life you're told that you'll be going to this marvelous place when you pass on. And the one thing you can do to get you there a bit quicker is something that stops you getting there at all. Oh, I can see that it's a kind of queue-jumping. But if someone jumps the queue at the post office, people tut. Or sometimes they say "Excuse me, I was here first." They don't say "You will be consumed by hellfire for all eternity." That would be a bit strong.

Martin
I'd spent the previous couple of months looking up suicides on the Internet, just out of curiosity. And nearly every single time, the coroner says the same thing: "He took his own life while the balance of his mind was disturbed." And then you read the story about the poor bastard: His wife was sleeping with his best friend, he'd lost his job, his daughter had been killed in a road accident some months before . . . Hello, Mr. Coroner? I'm sorry, but there's no disturbed mental balance here, my friend. I'd say he got it just right.

Jess
I was at a party downstairs. It was a shit party, full of all these ancient crusties sitting on the floor drinking cider and smoking huge spliffs and listening to weirdo space-out reggae. At midnight, one of them clapped sarcastically, and a couple of others laughed, and that was it-Happy New Year to you, too. You could have turned up to that party as the happiest person in London, and you'd still have wanted to jump off the roof by five past twelve. And I wasn't the happiest person in London anyway. Obviously.

JJ
New Year's Eve was a night for sentimental losers. It was my own stupid fault. Of course there'd be a low-rent crowd up there. I should have picked a classier date-like March 28, when Virginia Woolf took her walk into the river, or November 25 (Nick Drake). If anybody had been on the roof on either of those nights, the chances are they would have been like-minded souls, rather than hopeless f*ck-ups who had somehow persuaded themselves that the end of a calendar year is in any way significant.


Author Notes

Nick Hornby was born in Redhill, Surrey, England on April 17, 1957. He graduated from Cambridge University where he studied English. His books High Fidelity; Fever Pitch, which won the William Hill Sports Book of the Year Award in 1992; About a Boy and An Education were all made into movies. His other books include Slam; A Long Way Down; How to Be Good; Songbook; Shakespeare Wrote for Money; and The Polysyllabic Spree. He has received numerous awards including the American Academy of Arts and Letters' E. M. Forster Award in 1999 and the Orange Word International Writers' London Award in 2003. In addition to his books, his works have appeared in Esquire, Elle, GQ, Time, and Cosmopolitan. In 2015 his title, Funny Girl made The New York Times Bestseller List.

(Publisher Provided)


Nick Hornby was born in Redhill, Surrey, England on April 17, 1957. He graduated from Cambridge University where he studied English. His books High Fidelity; Fever Pitch, which won the William Hill Sports Book of the Year Award in 1992; About a Boy and An Education were all made into movies. His other books include Slam; A Long Way Down; How to Be Good; Songbook; Shakespeare Wrote for Money; and The Polysyllabic Spree. He has received numerous awards including the American Academy of Arts and Letters' E. M. Forster Award in 1999 and the Orange Word International Writers' London Award in 2003. In addition to his books, his works have appeared in Esquire, Elle, GQ, Time, and Cosmopolitan. In 2015 his title, Funny Girl made The New York Times Bestseller List.

(Publisher Provided)


Reviews 10

School Library Journal Review

Adult/High School-Four different people find themselves on the same roof on New Year's Eve, but they have one thing in common-they're all there to jump to their deaths. A scandal-plagued talk-show host, a single mom of a disabled young man, a troubled teen, and an aging American musician soon unite in a common cause, to find out why Jess (the teen) can't get her "ex-boyfriend" to return her calls. Down the stairs they go, and thoughts of suicide gradually subside. It all sounds so high concept, but each strand of the plot draws readers into Hornby's web. The novel is so simply written that its depths don't come to full view until well into the reading. Each character takes a turn telling the story in a distinctive voice. Tough questions are asked-why do you want to kill yourself, and why didn't you do it? Are adults any smarter than adolescents? What defines friends and family? Characters are alternately sympathetic and utterly despicable, talk-show-host Martin, particularly. The narrators are occasionally unreliable, with the truth coming from the observers instead. Obviously, a book about suicide is a dark read, but this one is darkly humorous-as Hornby usually is. Teens will identify with or loathe Jess and musician J. J., but they will also find themselves in the shoes of Maureen and Martin. This somewhat philosophical work will appeal to Hornby's fans but has plenty to attract new audiences as well.-Jamie Watson, Harford County Public Library, MD (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Publisher's Weekly Review

If Camus had written a grown-up version of The Breakfast Club, the result might have had more than a little in common with Hornby's grimly comic, oddly moving fourth novel. The story opens in London on New Year's Eve, when four desperate people-Martin, a publicly disgraced TV personality; Maureen, a middle-aged woman with no life beyond caring for her severely disabled adult son; Jess, the unstable, punked-out daughter of a junior government minister; and JJ, an American rocker whose music career has just ended with a whimper-meet on the roof of a building known as Toppers' House, where they have all come to commit suicide. Bonded by their shared misery, the unlikely quartet spends the night together, telling their stories, getting on each others' nerves even as they save each others' lives. They part the following morning, aware of having formed a peculiar sort of gang. As Jess reflects: "When you're sad-like, really sad, Toppers' House sad-you only want to be with other people who are sad." It's a bold setup, perilously high-concept, but Hornby pulls it off with understated ease. What follows is predictable in the broadest sense-as the motley crew of misfits coalesces into a kind of surrogate family, each individual takes a halting first step toward creating a tolerable future-but rarely in its particulars. Allowing the four main characters to narrate in round-robin fashion, Hornby alternates deftly executed comic episodes-an absurd brush with tabloid fame, an ill-conceived group vacation in the Canary Islands, a book group focused on writers who have committed suicide, a disastrous attempt to save Martin's marriage-with interludes of quiet reflection, some of which are startlingly insightful. Here, for example, is JJ, talking about the burden of understanding that he no longer wants to kill himself: "In a way, it makes things worse, not better.... Telling yourself life is shit is like an anesthetic, and when you stop taking the Advil, then you really can tell how much it hurts, and where, and it's not like that kind of pain does anyone a whole lot of good." While the reader comes to know all four characters well by the end of the novel, it's Maureen who stands out. A prim, old-fashioned Catholic woman who objects to foul language, Maureen is, on the surface, the least Hornbyesque of characters. Unacquainted with pop culture, she has done nothing throughout her entire adult life except care for a child who doesn't even know she's there and attend mass. As she says, "You know that things aren't going well for you when you can't even tell people the simplest fact about your life, just because they'll presume you're asking them to feel sorry for you." Hornby takes a Dickensian risk in creating a character as saintly and pathetic as Maureen, but it pays off. In her own quiet way, she's an unforgettable figure, the moral and emotional center of the novel. This is a brave and absorbing book. It's a thrill to watch a writer as talented as Hornby take on the grimmest of subjects without flinching, and somehow make it funny and surprising at the same time. And if the characters occasionally seem a little more eloquent or self-aware than they have a right to be, or if the novel turns just the tiniest bit sentimental at the end, all you can really fault Hornby for is an act of excessive generosity, an authorial embrace bestowed upon some characters who are sorely in need of a hug. (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Kirkus Review

Four suicidal depressives, meaning to do themselves in, meet on the same London rooftop--and form a pact--in an unpredictably comic fourth novel from Hornby. Except for a few mini-dissertations on rock and the Beatles, there are times when you'd hardly know that music- and pop-culture-obsessed Hornby (How to Be Good, 2001, etc.) was this story's author. It's New Year's Eve, and four people are converging on top of a building called Toppers' House. There are Jess, the slightly deranged daughter of a high-ranking politician; Martin, a former TV host just out of jail for statutory rape (girl was15, said16); JJ, a newly single Chicago musician whose band recently broke up; and Maureen, a devout Catholic and single mother raising a son who's been in a coma since birth. Needless to say, all have good reasons to off themselves (well, except JJ, which is why he pretends for a time to have a fatal illness), but coming together in such a random fashion forms a strange bond, and, instead of jumping off, they become friends, sort of. Making a pact to reassess their options in 90 days, they start meeting regularly, since there's nobody else they can talk to. Always a sucker for the happy ending, Hornby doesn't disappoint, but that's not to say he takes the easy road out. This is a group that spends more time firing caustic broadsides at each other and heaping more turmoil on their already tattered lives than in figuring out their grand purpose--and there's little in the way of epiphany awaiting them. The solution (if any) to their despair is more likely to come in a small moment of kindness than in any best-selling therapist's notion of closure. With the exception of a perfunctory subplot about the pact's brief time in the media spotlight, this is a well-executed and thoughtful tale that never digs too deep and simultaneously doesn't denigrate the seriousness of its characters' dilemmas. Highly moving and lively storytelling: Hornby's gifts become more apparent with each outing. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.


Booklist Review

In his trademark warm and witty prose, Hornby follows four depressed people from their aborted suicide attempts on New Years Eve through the surprising developments that occur over the following three months. Middle-aged Maureen has been caring for her profoundly disabled son for decades; Martin is a celebrity-turned-has-been after sleeping with a 15-year-old girl; teenage Jess, trash-talker extraordinaire, is still haunted by the mysterious disappearance of her older sister years before; and JJ is upset by the collapse of his band and his breakup with his longtime girlfriend. The four meet while scoping out a tower rooftop looking for the best exit point. Inhibited by the idea of having an audience, they agree instead to form a support group of sorts. But rather than indulging in sappy therapy-speak, they frequently direct lacerating, bitingly funny comments at each other--and the bracing mix of complete candor and endless complaining seems to work as a kind of tonic. Hornby funnels the perceptive music and cultural references he is known for through the character of JJ, but he also expands far beyond his usual territory, exploring the changes in perspective that can suddenly make a life seem worth living and adroitly shifting the tone from sad to happy and back again. The true revelation of this funny and moving novel is its realistic, all-too-human characters, who stumble frequently, moving along their redemptive path only by increments. --Joanne Wilkinson Copyright 2005 Booklist


Library Journal Review

In his fourth novel, Hornby delves into even darker material than his moving divorce meditation, How To Be Good. It is New Year's Eve circa 2003, and three Londoners and one American cross paths on the roof of Topper's House, so named for its popularity as a suicide spot. Single mom Maureen has tired of caring for her severely disabled adult son, while Martin sees no way of regaining his TV career and marriage after a prison stint for statutory rape; at 18, Jess is hormonally challenged and distraught after a sudden breakup, and Georgia native JJ has lost his woman and his rock'n'roll band. Throw them all together, and you have four lives saved-but a surprisingly tedious read of their post-attempt adventures in bonding. Each character takes turns narrating, a device that only exacerbates the group's sour chemistry. Good on Hornby for not wanting to write an "inspirational" novel of disparate people coming together, but he went a little too far in delineating their differences. The tireless bickering, especially between Martin and Jess, makes one wonder why the foursome doesn't kill one another. There are flashes of Hornby's talent for the tragicomic in Martin (an aging male in a youth-obsessed world), but overall, this is a slip-up. Given Hornby's enduring popularity, however, larger libraries should order. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 2/1/05.]-Heather McCormack, Library Journal (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


School Library Journal Review

Adult/High School-Four different people find themselves on the same roof on New Year's Eve, but they have one thing in common-they're all there to jump to their deaths. A scandal-plagued talk-show host, a single mom of a disabled young man, a troubled teen, and an aging American musician soon unite in a common cause, to find out why Jess (the teen) can't get her "ex-boyfriend" to return her calls. Down the stairs they go, and thoughts of suicide gradually subside. It all sounds so high concept, but each strand of the plot draws readers into Hornby's web. The novel is so simply written that its depths don't come to full view until well into the reading. Each character takes a turn telling the story in a distinctive voice. Tough questions are asked-why do you want to kill yourself, and why didn't you do it? Are adults any smarter than adolescents? What defines friends and family? Characters are alternately sympathetic and utterly despicable, talk-show-host Martin, particularly. The narrators are occasionally unreliable, with the truth coming from the observers instead. Obviously, a book about suicide is a dark read, but this one is darkly humorous-as Hornby usually is. Teens will identify with or loathe Jess and musician J. J., but they will also find themselves in the shoes of Maureen and Martin. This somewhat philosophical work will appeal to Hornby's fans but has plenty to attract new audiences as well.-Jamie Watson, Harford County Public Library, MD (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Publisher's Weekly Review

If Camus had written a grown-up version of The Breakfast Club, the result might have had more than a little in common with Hornby's grimly comic, oddly moving fourth novel. The story opens in London on New Year's Eve, when four desperate people-Martin, a publicly disgraced TV personality; Maureen, a middle-aged woman with no life beyond caring for her severely disabled adult son; Jess, the unstable, punked-out daughter of a junior government minister; and JJ, an American rocker whose music career has just ended with a whimper-meet on the roof of a building known as Toppers' House, where they have all come to commit suicide. Bonded by their shared misery, the unlikely quartet spends the night together, telling their stories, getting on each others' nerves even as they save each others' lives. They part the following morning, aware of having formed a peculiar sort of gang. As Jess reflects: "When you're sad-like, really sad, Toppers' House sad-you only want to be with other people who are sad." It's a bold setup, perilously high-concept, but Hornby pulls it off with understated ease. What follows is predictable in the broadest sense-as the motley crew of misfits coalesces into a kind of surrogate family, each individual takes a halting first step toward creating a tolerable future-but rarely in its particulars. Allowing the four main characters to narrate in round-robin fashion, Hornby alternates deftly executed comic episodes-an absurd brush with tabloid fame, an ill-conceived group vacation in the Canary Islands, a book group focused on writers who have committed suicide, a disastrous attempt to save Martin's marriage-with interludes of quiet reflection, some of which are startlingly insightful. Here, for example, is JJ, talking about the burden of understanding that he no longer wants to kill himself: "In a way, it makes things worse, not better.... Telling yourself life is shit is like an anesthetic, and when you stop taking the Advil, then you really can tell how much it hurts, and where, and it's not like that kind of pain does anyone a whole lot of good." While the reader comes to know all four characters well by the end of the novel, it's Maureen who stands out. A prim, old-fashioned Catholic woman who objects to foul language, Maureen is, on the surface, the least Hornbyesque of characters. Unacquainted with pop culture, she has done nothing throughout her entire adult life except care for a child who doesn't even know she's there and attend mass. As she says, "You know that things aren't going well for you when you can't even tell people the simplest fact about your life, just because they'll presume you're asking them to feel sorry for you." Hornby takes a Dickensian risk in creating a character as saintly and pathetic as Maureen, but it pays off. In her own quiet way, she's an unforgettable figure, the moral and emotional center of the novel. This is a brave and absorbing book. It's a thrill to watch a writer as talented as Hornby take on the grimmest of subjects without flinching, and somehow make it funny and surprising at the same time. And if the characters occasionally seem a little more eloquent or self-aware than they have a right to be, or if the novel turns just the tiniest bit sentimental at the end, all you can really fault Hornby for is an act of excessive generosity, an authorial embrace bestowed upon some characters who are sorely in need of a hug. (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Kirkus Review

Four suicidal depressives, meaning to do themselves in, meet on the same London rooftop--and form a pact--in an unpredictably comic fourth novel from Hornby. Except for a few mini-dissertations on rock and the Beatles, there are times when you'd hardly know that music- and pop-culture-obsessed Hornby (How to Be Good, 2001, etc.) was this story's author. It's New Year's Eve, and four people are converging on top of a building called Toppers' House. There are Jess, the slightly deranged daughter of a high-ranking politician; Martin, a former TV host just out of jail for statutory rape (girl was15, said16); JJ, a newly single Chicago musician whose band recently broke up; and Maureen, a devout Catholic and single mother raising a son who's been in a coma since birth. Needless to say, all have good reasons to off themselves (well, except JJ, which is why he pretends for a time to have a fatal illness), but coming together in such a random fashion forms a strange bond, and, instead of jumping off, they become friends, sort of. Making a pact to reassess their options in 90 days, they start meeting regularly, since there's nobody else they can talk to. Always a sucker for the happy ending, Hornby doesn't disappoint, but that's not to say he takes the easy road out. This is a group that spends more time firing caustic broadsides at each other and heaping more turmoil on their already tattered lives than in figuring out their grand purpose--and there's little in the way of epiphany awaiting them. The solution (if any) to their despair is more likely to come in a small moment of kindness than in any best-selling therapist's notion of closure. With the exception of a perfunctory subplot about the pact's brief time in the media spotlight, this is a well-executed and thoughtful tale that never digs too deep and simultaneously doesn't denigrate the seriousness of its characters' dilemmas. Highly moving and lively storytelling: Hornby's gifts become more apparent with each outing. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.


Booklist Review

In his trademark warm and witty prose, Hornby follows four depressed people from their aborted suicide attempts on New Years Eve through the surprising developments that occur over the following three months. Middle-aged Maureen has been caring for her profoundly disabled son for decades; Martin is a celebrity-turned-has-been after sleeping with a 15-year-old girl; teenage Jess, trash-talker extraordinaire, is still haunted by the mysterious disappearance of her older sister years before; and JJ is upset by the collapse of his band and his breakup with his longtime girlfriend. The four meet while scoping out a tower rooftop looking for the best exit point. Inhibited by the idea of having an audience, they agree instead to form a support group of sorts. But rather than indulging in sappy therapy-speak, they frequently direct lacerating, bitingly funny comments at each other--and the bracing mix of complete candor and endless complaining seems to work as a kind of tonic. Hornby funnels the perceptive music and cultural references he is known for through the character of JJ, but he also expands far beyond his usual territory, exploring the changes in perspective that can suddenly make a life seem worth living and adroitly shifting the tone from sad to happy and back again. The true revelation of this funny and moving novel is its realistic, all-too-human characters, who stumble frequently, moving along their redemptive path only by increments. --Joanne Wilkinson Copyright 2005 Booklist


Library Journal Review

In his fourth novel, Hornby delves into even darker material than his moving divorce meditation, How To Be Good. It is New Year's Eve circa 2003, and three Londoners and one American cross paths on the roof of Topper's House, so named for its popularity as a suicide spot. Single mom Maureen has tired of caring for her severely disabled adult son, while Martin sees no way of regaining his TV career and marriage after a prison stint for statutory rape; at 18, Jess is hormonally challenged and distraught after a sudden breakup, and Georgia native JJ has lost his woman and his rock'n'roll band. Throw them all together, and you have four lives saved-but a surprisingly tedious read of their post-attempt adventures in bonding. Each character takes turns narrating, a device that only exacerbates the group's sour chemistry. Good on Hornby for not wanting to write an "inspirational" novel of disparate people coming together, but he went a little too far in delineating their differences. The tireless bickering, especially between Martin and Jess, makes one wonder why the foursome doesn't kill one another. There are flashes of Hornby's talent for the tragicomic in Martin (an aging male in a youth-obsessed world), but overall, this is a slip-up. Given Hornby's enduring popularity, however, larger libraries should order. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 2/1/05.]-Heather McCormack, Library Journal (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.