Monday, July 04, 2005

A Long Way Down, Nick Hornby

A review of his fantastic new novel

Nick Hornby’s new novel, A Long Way Down, is his absolute finest yet and that’s considering the fantastic standard of work he’s produced so far. Well, it says it all when the characters of a fiction become your best mates for the entire duration of your read. And when you give up any social life to read more, and more, until you finish! Ok, granted that also implies extreme sadness on the part of the reader (alright, point taken), but also a fantastic prose on behalf of the writer. Nick Hornby flows with no frills, and his books feel as if it was your own soul to speak.

A Long Way Down begins dramatically, with four people randomly bumping into one another on top of a tower block, North London's main suicide spot, on New Year’s Eve.

Martin is a failed breakfast TV presenter, a perma-tanned has-been who's had enough of scandal, failure and meaningless shagging about in the quest of...nobody knows exactly. Maureen is a lonely middle-aged woman in the throes of catholic guilt about her disabled son. Jess is basically a spoilt-brat with deep behavioural problem and a punk-ish look and she's just been dumped for the umpteenth time. JJ is a musician from the US. He's just hit 30 and his band packed it in for good and the prospect of being a pizza man when for years he'd been dreaming of being a rockstar is just too much to bear.

Those characters look like they have nothing in common, and it all may seem light-hearted for a second. Wrong. What follows thereafter is a journey into life, depression, failure and the meaning of everything, with enough depth, wit, humour and intensity to leave you in amazement.

Martin, Maureen, Jess and JJ are likely to turn into your best friends for the entire duration of your reading, each of them hitting well-hidden spots. Hornby is at his best when he blends in ordinariness and colloquialism along with the most comprehensive soul-searching that contemporary literature can offer. It’s as if Hornby and his characters manage to articulate what you’ve always wanted but never quite managed to talk about.

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