Archive for the ‘Nick Hornby: A long Way Down’ Category

My Personal Judgment

January 11, 2010

I didn’t have any idea what “A Long Way Down” is about. I just began to read it because I was fascinated by “High Fidelity” and wanted to get to know more books from this author.

It was surprising to begin to read a book handling straightforward and openly with the difficult topics depression and suicide- but somehow it’s really relieving that the author leaves the social ignorance about it behind and confronts me, the reader, with real problems in real lives.
The four protagonists don’t seem to be very intelligent; at some parts of the book I got annoyed with them because they don’t seem to make improvements for a long time and sometimes the misunderstandings between them are way too exaggerated.

At the beginning the book is very amusing and you don’t bore at all. But Part 2 and 3 aren’t as good as the first part- some things that happen are just too implausible and even if the happenings top each other you can’t find a real progress inside their minds. Also, the book tries really hard not to conform to the typical cliché- endings but it did in some way. The happy ending didn’t satisfy me at all, it was just too less creative and authentic.
Nevertheless, I enjoyed reading this book. It was fun, a little thought- provoking while reading the book but not to think about or to learn from after reading it. I would recommend it as a book to take a break from heavy- weighed literature to people that like and understand black humor.

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Impressions

January 11, 2010

You notice just in the beginning that this book is neither a drama nor a tragedy despite the tragic of the topic. It’s written in interior monologues from the viewpoint of four first-person-narrators, in their own way of speaking, with very ironic and macabre parts and drawn from life. I think that’s the main point in this book; it isn’t the series of events but the feeling by reading the text and getting to know the persons and their lives. After a while, you begin to identify and sympathize with them and to feel with them, because they show you their real and honest thoughts without caring about political correctness or something like that.

There’s also the strange relation between the four protagonists who are totally different persons. They live in different living realities, so it seems to be hard for them to understand the others. But there’s a development in the second half of the book; they learn to accept others and to empathize with them. It’s a completely new experience for each of them to realize that there are people under totally different living conditions but nevertheless remain human natures like you and me. The story teaches you not to take the superficial appearance for granted and to see behind the curtain to understand the behavior of others that you can’t comprehend.
Nick Hornby knows how to write in such a realistic and human way about such a serious topic without making you feel bad or sad. It’s also written very funny; mainly the communication problems that exist between them made me laugh a lot.

The Plot

January 10, 2010

Part 1

As Martin, Maureen, Jess and JJ see each other on the roof and decide not to follow their decision to jump they sit down to talk about their backgrounds eating pizza.
Jess suddenly relapses out of a discussion; she tries to jump of the roof but Martin keeps her from doing so. After that, she kind of blackmails them to come with her searching for the boy Chas.

So, one step follows another. When they solved the Chas- problem with some conversation, they go to Martin’s house to have a few drinks. Meanwhile there’s developing a relation between the four persons. They spend most of the time arguing but actually they want to be with the others.

Part 2

The next morning everyone’s for himself- they decided to exchange addresses and phone numbers and to rethink their suicidal plans until Valentine’s Day. But right the next day the “Toppers House Four” are forced to meet again: Chas had told and sold the suicide-pact- story to a newspaper. That means trouble for Martin and the family of Jess, because of their position in public. Also, everyone knows about them now and that means a lot of concern and lack of comprehension from the side of family members and friends.
As everyone’s involved in the scandal, they decide to benefit from the presence in press; Jess has the idea to affirm they’ve seen an angel on the roof that prevented them from jumping so that they can sell the story to a newspaper to make some money. They also have an interview at a TV- show.
After that day,  JJ and Maureen talk about their wishes. Maureen mentions that she hadn’t been outside the UK before and it would be a dream of her to go on vacation.
JJ proposes a trip of “Toppers House Four” to flee for a while from the problems at home. One week later they travel to Tenerife.
Maureen really enjoys the vacation; she compares the time without Matty with the absence of a third leg; the nice weather, the chilling out and the nice food also are new to her.
In contrast, Martin and Jess don’t have such a good time:
Jess goes to a pub and sees a girl that looks exactly like her lost sister Jen. After having an argument with her (she always annoys people), she gets drunk and the policemen have to get her to the hotel. Martin isn’t pleased with anything and the others get on his nerves, especially Jess. So he decides to spend the last two days at another hotel.
Shortly after coming home it’s Valentine’s Day, their “deadline”, and they want to meet again at the top of Toppers House. But when they arrive there, they see how an unknown man jumps off the building. They can’t stop him.

Part 3

Martin, Jess, JJ and Maureen meet at Starbucks and realize they’re not as ready to part and begin a new life as individuals as they thought. Martin had read in an article that you need 90 days to get over a depression with suicidal thoughts. So they again extend their “deadline” to the 31st March.
Now the time of improving their actual situation begins; at least Jess thinks that. With Maureen, she visits the ex- wife of Martin to ask her to come back to him- but she’s happy with her children and her new partner. She gives Jess the idea that for them it’s not about rebuilding the old state but about the help of family and friends to start a new life or to revive the living will.
So Jess organizes a meeting with the four and people that are important in their lives but aren’t really integrated in them: There are Jess’ parents, Martin’s ex-wife and children, JJ’s best friend (and part of his ex-band) and his ex-girlfriends Lizzie and Maureen’s son Matty with two nurses.
The idea was to talk about them and to find solutions for any of them to have the guts to begin an independent and happier life again.  The meeting ends up in a mess, but it shows them that there has to be made a change.
In the end, they’ve all learned their lesson: Martin gives classes to young pupils, JJ begins to work as a busker (Straßenmusiker) because he needs music to survive, Maureen “resocializes” herself by getting a job and beginning to go to a quiz club and Jess learns to comprehend her parents.
At March 31st they meet on the rooftop again and decide to wait another six months.

Introduction to the book

January 8, 2010

 

Beginning of the plot:

“A long way down” takes place in the London of these days; more precisely it begins at the top of a high block house in London: Toppers House. It’s known for the numerous cases of suicides from its top.

That’s where the four characters come across each other at New Year’s Eve- with the intention to kill themselves by jumping off the roof. Martin, Maureen, Jess and JJ haven’t had seen each other before, they’re strangers (except Martin, I’ll explain later) but as they meet and notice that they’re not the only ones with the desire to die, there’s nothing else for every single protagonist to do but to reflect on his self-absorbed, maybe misdirected mind. Everyone of them seems to want to protect the others from this terrible decision, so they decide to wait and not to suicide themselves- at least temporarily- and to get together.

The Characters:

 

Martin

Martin Sharp is the presenter of a breakfast- TV- show, a kind of b-list celebrity, until his life turns drastically because of sleeping with a 15- year- old. He is arrested into prison and gets very present in media; Everyone knows about what he has done.  Martin lost his job and ruined his reputation and the relation to his ex- wife and children.
Martin regrets his night with the girl, now he knows it was a desperate act by noticing his days of youth are totally gone now. He feels old and depressed; people on the street yell insults at him.

 

Maureen

Maureen is a middle- aged woman living alone with her severely disabled son Matty. He can’t speak or even move his body by himself.

Maureen had sex only once in her life, and Matty is the product of this time. You could call it bad luck but Maureen is a believing Catholic and is convinced that it is a punishment she has to live with. But shortly after the birth her husband leaves her and she loses everything that made life worth living: She has to care 24/7 for him, so she doesn’t go out, doesn’t have any friends and lives with a son that maybe doesn’t even realize she exists. Family members and friends distanced themselves from her.

Now Matty’s 19 years old and Maureen doesn’t have any more will to live after dedicating her whole energy to a “vegetable”. She lost her self- confidence, doesn’t care about herself and only sustains her life with pills and the love for her son that can’t give her anything back.
So, even though it’s a fatal sin, she plans for months to kill herself at New Year’s Eve.

Jess

Jess is an 18 year old punk and the daughter of the Junior Education Minister- you don’t notice at all. A strike about her is the rude way in which she behaves to other people; she seems to say bad things out of the moment and out of insecurity. In her words, she “pisses off” others pretty fast and developed a self- protection to push her depression aside. Her older sister disappeared years ago and most of the people think she has committed suicide. That was a turning point in her childhood since when she’s very distanced from her parents.
At New Year’s Eve Jess is at a party in an apartment inside Toppers House where she doesn’t want to be and doesn’t know anybody. A guy named Chas with whom she passed a night hadn’t any interest in her while Jess thought she completely fell in love.
It’s a totally spontaneous decision to jump off the roof when someone at the party mentions that so many people jump off this building every year.

JJ

JJ is a 30 year old American and the typical long- haired rock star guy. JJ is originally called John Julius, but that really doesn’t seem like a cool name for a real rock star to him. He came to the UK with his girlfriend Lizzy and used to play in a successful rock band named “Big Yellow”. The band broke up and so did the relationship with Lizzy. Now he’s broke, alone and extremely discontent with his life- music ever was his self- fulfillment. He works at a pizza delivery service and decided to end his life in a spectacular way, comparing to Kurt Cobain or other rock stars.

Nick Hornby

January 6, 2010

Hornby
Nick Hornby is an English writer born at April 17th  1957 in Redhill, England as the son of a rich businessman and a housewife who divorced when he was 11 years old.
 This was the first confrontation between two different worlds in his life: the world in which his father lived in, guided by hard work and success, and the humble and decent way of life of his mother.
This confrontation with the “better” that lead into big phases of frustration, converted Nick Hornby into the ironic and dreamy but depressed personality that you can recognize in his novels.  

Hornby didn’t plan to write books from the beginning- his biography is shaped by many ups and downs. After studying English literature at Cambridge University he began to teach English at a school and in language classes for foreigners but failed. He noticed he’s just not the type for this job.  So he tried to write screenplays and it again didn’t work out.

After this phase, Hornby began to try it as a journalist. He always had written essays and short texts but never showed the courage to publish something or to search a job in journalism seriously. Some magazines were interested in him (he’s a fanatic fan of pop music and football), but not famous ones. The first book Hornby published was a collection of some essays on American writers named “Contemporary American Fiction” (1992) to which wasn’t payed much attention.

Hornby wrote many non-fictional books, essays and articles but also six novels, for example “High Fidelity” which is very well known.

“A long way down” is his fourth novel and was published in 2005.

A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby

November 1, 2009