A LONG WAY DOWN
Nick Hornby, Penguin
ISBN 0670888249, £17.99
STAR RATING: 4/5
There are people who are suicidal, and there are others who kill
themselves. Nick Hornby’s latest novel shows that the two are very
different, writes Chris George.
The four main characters meet on New Year’s Eve on top of a tower
block, well known as a local suicide spot. They are clearly
unhappy, sharing a sense of regret, disappointment and
But after talking, they leave the roof to begin a set of odd,
dysfunctional and ultimately loyal friendships.
When they return to “Toppers House” for a reunion six weeks later
they watch helplessly as a panicky middle-aged man in tears “flips
his cigarette over the edge, lets out a little moan and pushes
himself off”. Despite their despair, they lack the unbearable
distress that leads someone to kill themselves.
After realising that jumping off a roof isn’t an option for them,
they gradually begin to rebuild their lives and allowing time to
pass makes their lives feel more bearable.
That one character pretends to his girlfriend that he’s having an
affair rather than admit that he’s been considering suicide, shows
how difficult the subject is to discuss.
Hornby here achieves a lot through an honest and sensitive
approach. He characteristically combines warmth and poignancy with
quirky and ridiculous situations to create a readable and
Chris George is director, Loud and Clear Mental Health