#25 “A Long Way Down” by Nick Hornby

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  1. Goose – Dawn O’Porter
  2. Murder in Mississippi – John Safran
  3. Elianne – Judy Nunn
  4. Divergent – Veronica Roth
  5. Insurgent – Veronica Roth
  6. Allegiant – Veronica Roth
  7. The Messenger – Markus Zusak
  8. Fragile Things – Neil Gaiman
  9. The Mammoth Book of Angels and Demons
  10. NOS4R2 – Joe Hill
  11. Hades – Candice Fox
  12. Last Night at Chateau Marmont – Lauren Weisberger
  13. Thirteen Reasons Why – Jay Asher
  14. The Maze Runner – James Dashner
  15. The Scorch Trials – James Dashner
  16. The Death Cure – James Dashner
  17. A Long Way Down – Nick Hornby
  18. More Than This – Patrick Ness

I spent yesterday afternoon moving dirt. Shovelling it from a huge pile and putting it in a wheelbarrow and spreading it over grass, where the dirt will eventually become a garden. My legs hurt, my arms hurt, and I think my fingernails are permanently stained black, but I had fun. Really, I did.

Yeah, I can tell you don’t believe me.

See, I don’t get outside much. My gym’s inside, my work’s inside, and I do all my studying inside because I get eaten alive by mosquitoes if I don’t. The beach is about an hour’s drive away and there aren’t really any pretty walking tracks around here. So, yeah, I stay inside a lot. Yesterday (and for half an hour this morning) I was outside, moving dirt, and I felt alive. So I’m making a premature New Year’s Resolution to get outside more. Even if I’ve lived my life via this quote for the past twenty-two years (yes I know The Big Bang Theory hasn’t been around that long, but you know what I mean):

Sheldon Cooper: If outside is so good, why has mankind spent thousands of years trying to perfect inside?

Besides, getting outside was a great way to take a break from assignments and my keyboard. I’ve wanted to blog for the past few days, but I spent so much of last week typing away at an assignment, that had a grand total of 4,700+ words, that I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. But now I finally finished A Long Way Down so I have a blogging purpose again! Yay!

Reading A Long Way Down while doing this particular assignment was a rookie error. This book is about what happens after four people meet unexpectedly, on top of a building from which they were all going to jump. My assignment? Was all about suicide prevention. It just got a little too real for my liking. But then I had a look at my TBR pile and noticed that four out of the eleven books I have left to read are about death. There’s probably something in that, but I really don’t feel like psychoanalysing myself.

I’m completely ambivalent about this book. I can’t decide whether I like it or not. It may be because while I was reading it, I was also reading all of these studies about which types of psychological or pharmacological treatments resulted in less completed suicide and parasuicidal (self-harming) behaviours. It’s incredibly confronting reading about something as devastating as suicide in clinical terms. To then open the book you’re reading and read about suicide in almost an offhanded way, well, that wasn’t too much fun either.

It took me a while to sink into the characters of Maureen, Martin, JJ, and Jess. I kept getting them confused and all of their thought patterns about why they wanted to jump all sounded remarkably similar, even though these characters came from different backgrounds. I had very little sympathy for any of the characters except Maureen. The other three seemed to treat their suicidal ideation as a get-out-of-jail free card, or a way to make people feel guilty, or something like that. Maureen was the only one who struck me as feeling genuinely torn up about her choices. The others just felt hollow. And maybe that was the point, but that hit the wrong nerve with me.
Suicide and everything related to mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety, hit a little too close to home for me. I have too many close friends and family members who have struggled with depression and come way too close to losing that battle. It was kind of why I picked this book up in the first place, in a weird way. Maybe to understand the decisions?
To have Hornby write this book in a way that  blows off the enormity of what these characters had decided to do on that fateful New Year’s Eve just didn’t sit right with me. Maybe this is why I can’t decide if I like the book or not. Because, my personal feelings aside, this book was quite clever.

Once I settled into the characters, they became almost larger-than-life. They leapt off the page as people you might actually see in the street. But this did take a while. It was like the characters started as one confused, confusing, and depressed entity that slowly separated into four individual entities. There’s probably something in that too, like these four found themselves in each other, but this particular kind of characterisation detracted from the story a bit.

That being said, the different voices and language choices and even punctuation were well crafted. For example, in Maureen’s sections all swearing was bleeped out, so that “fuck” became “f—“. And in Jess’ sections, dialogue was written without punctuation marks, and in one section it was written like a screenplay.
(I seem to be going back and forth a bit, don’t I? See what I mean? Ambivalent.)

The characters did tend to ramble on and on about their mental states and their issues and what have you. These ramblings were wonderfully written, but they got tedious. With four people  all feeling the same way about how their lives ended up, their thought patterns weren’t really a surprise. I feel so cold saying this, but it’s true. I essentially read the same inner dialogue four times. I mean, they all got to that end state-of-mind in different ways, but the way they felt? Pretty much identical.

This book didn’t really have a plot. Events happened, and they all had consequences, but it was a little like Magic Mike in that these “events” never really had a point. The story just kind of wraps up with nothing really resolved. I can definitely see why Hornby wrote that kind of an ending, but the fact that the “plot” just ambles along is weird for a book. Movies and TV shows I get, but books need to have a point. The story has to have a point. Or in my opinion, anyway. It felt as though the plot had things happen to it, rather than things happening because of the plot. It was a strange experience.

Finally, out of the ten one-line reviews in this book (half of which were on the cover, one of which came from The Johnny Depp), seven of them talked about how funny this book was. Which is something that I totally missed. I didn’t laugh once. Again, this may be because of my own personal thoughts of the issue of suicide, but I just didn’t find this book funny at all.

A Long Way Down is an OK book. It’s not going to blow your mind or anything, but it’s a solid read. You will keep reading until the last page, even if you aren’t entirely sure why. To be honest, I was expecting more from the man who brought us About a Boy

★★★

But one last thing: please, please talk to someone if you’re feeling depressed. Or if you notice that someone in your life has been depressed for a while, please just talk to them. We lose 800,000 people to suicide internationally each year. Asking that one person “Are you OK?” may just save their life.

 

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About Bec Graham

Bec Graham, 24, was born on the wrong continent. Everything from her burns-like-paper skin tone to her inability to cope with the slightest hint of a hot day suggests she should have been born under the gloomy skies and mild sun of the UK. She hopes writing will get her to her rightful home one day. Failing that, she scans the skies for a spinning blue police box, hoping to catch a lift back to the motherland.
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One Response to #25 “A Long Way Down” by Nick Hornby

  1. Pingback: End of 2014 Book Survey | My Infernal Imagination

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