Four people meet on New Year’s Eve and form a surrogate family to help one another weather the difficulties of their lives.
A Long Way Down is the story of Jess, JJ, Maureen and Martin. All from totally different walks of life, they meet at the top of a tall building on New Year’s Eve. Why? Because they all want to jump off.
I understand what you’re thinking: ‘How can anyone possibly sit through 350 pages of not one, but four suicidal characters?’ Trust me, I was a little apprehensive too. But here I am, 350 pages later. For a book with a very serious main idea, it’s not like a PSA or a book of motivation for those in need. Hornby manages to create a very strong cast of characters, people who are real and very different from one another.
Jess is a bitch, that’s true. Nonetheless, she’s got a backstory that explains her behaviour. Doesn’t forgive it, of course, but her actions and ridiculously outspoken attitude is understandable. JJ is lost, torn away from what he knows and the things he loves. He’s drifting and unable to latch, but he’s likable and probably my favourite out of the four just because he’s very easy to relate to. Maureen has a son who is disabled and brain damaged, and her life is meaningless to her. I found her story the most intriguing, how people just don’t really care and how much she feels undeserving of anything better. Martin, I’ll be honest, I didn’t really understand. He’s screwed up a lot of different areas in his life and is feeling completely pointless and ridiculed. He’s not a bad character per se, just a little irritating.
The entire book isn’t based on the roof, and it’s not all doom and gloom. I really enjoyed JJ’s narrative, and throughout the book, Maureen became close competition for my favourite. One of the highlights is the way that their quartet’s friendship develops. At the beginning, they all feel forced into speaking to one another, but by the end, they have a bond which none of them can deny. The plot is not overly complicated, but at times I felt it got a little stupid and some characters acted in ways I would not have expected. Something involving an angel is all I need to say. The different perspectives offered are a very interesting way to explore the events of the novel, and I really appreciated the insight into each of their thoughts.
I read it in large chunks; it’s a good story at the heart of it, and it doesn’t get boring after a few pages either. Aside from some silly things, it’s a very heartwarming book that I thoroughly enjoyed.
(I’m also stupidly excited for the movie release at the end of this month. Aaron Paul will be perfect as JJ, and I’m very excited to see how the writing style is transferred onto the big screen.)