Review: A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby

Title: A Long Way Down
Author:  Nick Hornby
Series:  None
Publisher:  Riverhead Books, a trademark of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
Publication Date:  May 2, 2006
Pages:  333
Format/Source:  Paperback/Purchased

Age Group/Genre:  Adult/Contemporary

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. (From Goodreads)

High Expectations…

A Long Way Down was the July selection for my book club, and I was pretty excited to read it because I love the movie version of one of Nick Hornby’s other books, About a Boy.  I liked that book, too, but I LOVE the movie. Anyway, I knew going into this book that I was most likely going to enjoy it. And I was right!

It’s kind of a dark subject matter, because all of these people have decided to commit suicide on New Year’s Eve, and they all decide to jump off the roof of the same building, but they get in each other’s way.  So there is a lot of talk about suicide, about what it means to want to be alive, why life is worth living, etc.  But I think, for the most part, this story is pretty uplifting.  And it can be downright funny a lot of the time.

I loved the characters in this story.  I started out not liking a couple of the characters, but after a while, after I got to know more about each of the characters, I ended up liking all of them and understanding why they acted the way they did.  And I love how Hornby wrote it just like how you get to know someone in real life–you don’t learn everything all at once, and first impressions are not always the best, but as you spend more time with someone you learn more about them.

A lot of the blurbs on my copy of the book compared A Long Way Down to The Breakfast Club, and I think that’s pretty spot-on.  These characters all meet in a certain place when they’re having really hard times in their lives, and they don’t really like each other too much but they get each other through it, and they end up being there for one another.

Favorite Quotes…

Here are some of my favorite quotes from A Long Way Down:

“The life I was leading didn’t let me be, I don’t know . . . be who I thought I was.”

“I had managed to convince myself that if I could make things work with Penny, then I could make them work elsewhere–I could somehow haul myself back, as if one’s youth were a place you could visit whenever you felt like it.  I bring you momentous news:  It’s not.  Who’d have thought?”

“What does it feel like, having a missing sister?  I can tell you.  You know how if you lose something valuable, a wallet or a piece of jewelry, you can’t concentrate on anything else?  Well, it feels like that all the time, every day.”

“JJ could have put a sort of ramp up to my sentences to help people skateboard down from them.”

“Everyone knows how to talk, and no one knows what to say.”

Bonus Points…

Nick Hornby gets some of my bonus points for the following reasons:

  • A Friends reference = 10,000 points
  • An X-Men reference = 15,000 points
  • A Harry Potter reference = 50 million points
  • A Doctor Who reference = 100 million points (this one is extra because the joke in which the Doctor Who reference appears is really darn funny!)
My rating of A Long Way Down, by Nick Hornby:

4 big stars.  I’m looking forward to the movie adaptation that is set to release in 2013, and in the meantime, I’m going to try to read more of Nick Hornby’s books!
Find it:  Goodreads │ Amazon │ Penguin Group
You may also enjoy:  About a Boy

Disclaimer:  I purchased this book myself.  I was not compensated in any way for this review.


  1. fakesteph

    July 23, 2012 at 11:58 am

    This sounds so good! I know Courtney LOVES Nick Hornby, so I've had Juliet, Naked next to my bed for FOREVER. I need to get to it. He sounds like exactly my kind of writer.

    1. Andrea @ The Overstuffed Bookcase

      July 23, 2012 at 10:39 pm

      I haven't read Juliet, Naked, but I'd like to read it and all his other books someday!

  2. Kate@Midnight Book Girl

    July 23, 2012 at 5:50 pm

    I love John Cusack, so of course I adored the movie High Fidelity. I read the book by Hornby that it was based on, and wasn't that impressed. And I've never really seen all of About a Boy, and while I did see Fever Pitch, I had no wish to read the books, despite Courtney's love for all things Hornby. I have almost bought Juliet, Naked a dozen times, simply because it's always on the discount shelves at Barnes and Noble and it sounds interesting, but then I always put it back. I remember Bittner mentioning this book before, and I actually find the concept really, really interesting (morbid girl that I am), but I haven't put any effort into getting my hands on this book. Now I will, because I probably wasn't that impressed with the book High Fidelity because it mostly referenced a bunch of bands I've never heard of, and while I adore Hugh Grant in Four Weddings and a Funeral and Sense and Sensibility (which of course features the swoon worthy Alan Rickman) I was already over him by the time About a Boy came along. I realize I've been unfair to Nick Hornby, because any author that references all the bonus point references you mentioned is obviously worthy of a second look! Although I may have to wait until A Long Way Down in on the sale rack because I've had/will continue to have an expensive year. ;)

    1. Andrea @ The Overstuffed Bookcase

      July 23, 2012 at 11:00 pm

      Jeez, I can't believe I forgot to mention High Fidelity! I LOVE that movie! And the first pool team I was on was called Sonic Death Monkey! ;) I haven't read the book, though.

      And I still love Hugh Grant, so that could be why I love About a Boy more than the book. But I did enjoy the book.

      Do you guys have Half Price Books in VA? Because I found my copy of A Long Way Down there for like $5.

    2. Kate@Midnight Book Girl

      July 25, 2012 at 11:22 am

      Hmm, off to check the internet to see where the closest Half Price Books is to us… Thanks!

    3. Andrea @ The Overstuffed Bookcase

      July 25, 2012 at 8:42 pm

      I looked it up, unfortunately there aren't any in VA or DC! :( Well, you might be better off because Half Price Books stores are like crack! ;)

  3. Jen Ryland/YA Romantics

    July 24, 2012 at 9:55 pm

    Huge fan of NH! Loved About a Boy SO much and I really liked HIgh Fidelity and Juliet Naked, but I had a hard time getting into this one.
    But after reading this, maybe I will try again!

    1. Andrea @ The Overstuffed Bookcase

      July 25, 2012 at 8:40 pm

      I really need to read High Fidelity because I love that movie!

  4. Kimberly @ On the Wings of Books

    July 25, 2012 at 3:14 am

    I've never read any of Hornby's books. But I know I've seen About a Boy and really liked it. I have a particular love for The Breakfast Club so A Long Way Down will now make my list because I just can't pass up an opportunity to read a Breakfast Club like book.

    Side note about Kate's comment: I have seen Juliet, Naked like a million times in the discount bin at Wal-Mart and on the discount rack at B&N and I've picked it up and put it down like a million times also.

    1. Andrea @ The Overstuffed Bookcase

      July 25, 2012 at 8:41 pm

      I wouldn't say it's exactly like The Breakfast Club but it is similar. If you like dark, British humor, you'll probably like his books!

  5. Brandileigh2003 (Blkosiners Book Blog)

    July 26, 2012 at 3:15 pm

    Wow, this sounds really deep. The premise is interesting, and I am glad that you connected with the characters.
    Thanks for review,
    Brandi from Blkosiner’s Book Blog

    1. Andrea @ The Overstuffed Bookcase

      July 26, 2012 at 6:57 pm

      It was a pretty deep book. The subject matter is definitely morbid, but the book really wasn't at all. Thanks for stopping by! :D

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