A Long Way Down
I’ve been an avid book reader since childhood. I’ve read more books than I can count, some of them memorable, some of them not. Names of books have been long buried in the depths of my mind, and while many of them have managed to speak to me in one way or another, there was one thing missing from my book reading experience: humor. Yeah, I’ve had books that made me cry, rage, shake my head and cringe but laugh? Thankfully, I don’t have to worry about that anymore after reading Nick Hornby’s 2005 A Long Way Down. I read it in my junior year of college for my Recent British Fiction course and it was one of those books you couldn’t put down once you started. And it was funny. Really funny. Laugh out loud funny! I don’t think I’ve ever had such an unexpected exchange with a book, and when I say unexpected, I mean unexpected. I mean, suicide is never a laughing matter, unless, of course, you’re reading A Long Way Down. This dark comedy chronicles the adventures of four unlikely friends – Martin, Maureen, JJ and Jess – whose lives intersect through a botched suicide attempt. Given the novel’s subject matter one would expect to descend into a spiral of depression and alcoholism with each successive chapter – that is, until you start reading. Through his quirky story line and permeating wit, Hornby is able to capture his readers’ attention and hearts. The novel is written from the perspective of each protagonist and Hornby does an excellent job of giving each of his main characters a distinct voice. What I love most about this novel is how real the characters are; their personalities are relatable, likable even, in their imperfection and instability. The range of emotion I experienced while reading Hornby’s novel made me appear somewhat emotionally unstable myself – one minute I was teary-eyed, the next I was hysterically laughing, snorting and oblivious to the confused reactions of those around me. The oscillation between moments of hilarity and sadness make A Long Way Down a mustread novel, one you can be sure to be reflecting on days after you’ve read the last page.