Tuesday, June 24, 2014

A Long Way Down: A Novel by Nick Hornby--This Book-to-Movie Comes to the Big Screen in U.S. 07-11-14 [Limited Release]!

This is the paperback edition of Nick
Hornby's, A Long Way Down. [1]
Book Review by: Sharon Powers.


     Phil and Rita are sitting in the diner at their regular table. They have a discussion about death and life and Phil tells Rita that he has just survived a horrible car wreck and that he is a supernatural being.

     Phil is a famous weatherman and on-screen personage who goes to Punxsutawney for Groundhog Day and gets stuck in a time loop living the same day, the exact same day, over and over again. Phil moves through various emotions, at first disbelief of his situation, then he feels elation, and finally despair and weariness and dread. They drive him to attempt to commit suicide but he always wakes up the next morning exactly as he did the day before.

   Back at the table in the diner, Phil tells Rita that he's survived more than just a car wreck. He says, "'I've been run over, drowned, crushed, stabbed, shot, electrocuted, poisoned, frozen, burned, and asphyxiated. [RITA says] 'Really?' [And the waiter looks at him like he's nuts.] [PHIL responds,] '--but I always wake up the next day without a scratch, without even a headache. I'm telling you, I'm immortal.'" [2]

     Here is a short film clip of Bill Murray as Phil Connor going through his series of suicide attempts. This video clip is from YouTube. Please enjoy:

     The one suicide attempt Phil doesn't mention is jumping from a tall building--but we see that he does attempt suicide this way. Jumping from a tall building is exactly what four people plan on doing in Nick Hornby's novel, A Long Way Down. The four people, however, are not stuck in a supernatural time loop. Their first jump would be their last--and that is, indeed, what they intend.

     Four people, all leading separate lives and not knowing each other, come to one fateful decision that brings them all together on the same night at the same place and time, the top of a very tall building in London, called Toppers. Ironically, as each arrives on that New Year's Eve, they, in turn, discover they are all there for the same purpose: to jump to their death from the rooftop. 

The irony of their agreement
to delay their suicide until
Valentine's Day may, or may
not have escaped the group's
notice. [5]
     The four begin talking and eventually agree to a moratorium on their suicide jump until Valentine's Day. Periodically the individuals, Martin, Maureen, Jess, and J.J., meet and the reader gradually gets to know more about each person. Their personalities and lives are disparate: Martin, is a television personality, convicted of having sex with a fifteen-year-old, and, having been in prison, is separated from his wife and daughters; Maureen is a single mother of a profoundly handicapped boy; Jess is an out-of-control teenager who uses drugs, drinks alcohol, and misses her sister who suddenly disappeared one day; and J.J. is an ex-band member who recently broke up with his girl friend and is stuck delivering pizza's for a living. 

     And then the fateful day arrives--Valentine's Day. The group has gathered on the top of the building for a second time. In a shocking turn of events, we are witness to a suicide. But what of those that remain behind? Nick Hornby pulls out all the stops and lets everyone have it. But what will be done with what is left? Will the group all eventually jump to their deaths, or will they find a way to live?

     When you get yourself in that place, the place I was in on New Year's Eve, you think people who aren't up on the roof are a million miles away, all the way across the ocean, but they're not. There is no ocean. Pretty much all of them are on dry land, in touching distance. (p.324)
     This is my favorite quote because I like the concept that we all aren't really so far apart from each other. Of course, if you read closely, you'll realize that J.J., the speaker, is really saying that everyone else is on the roof with him and not so far away from being suicidal, themselves.

     The movie is scheduled for limited release, only, on July 11, 2014. After having watched the trailer, I have to say, I think the book adaptation to movie seems to change the tone of the book. Watching the trailer, it seems like four desperate people meet, help each other, and everything ends well. The music is up beat and cheerful, laughing and giggling included--anything but what you would associate with suicide. Watch the trailer and see what you think. [7]

     Pierce Brosnan will star in the movie as Martin, Toni Collette as Maureen, Imogene Poots as Jess, Aaron Paul as J.J., with Sam Neil as Chris, Rosamund Pike as Penny, and Josef Altin as Matty. Pascal Chaumeil is the Director and writing credits going to Nick Hornby (novel) and Jack Thorne (screenplay). Ratings have given the movie 6.5 stars out of 10 (2,705 Ratings users), and the metascore is 28 out of 100. The MPAA Rating is R (for language). [8]

     Oh, my, my, my. We are down to it now, aren't we? First, just to let you know, I've had a family member who committed suicide, so I don't think that suicide is funny--even in a black humor kind of way. This book has been out long enough for almost everyone to know that it is supposed to be "hilarious" and that it has "comical snap." I just don't think so. I never laughed once, or chuckled, or even smiled at any point while I was reading the book. Others may think it humorous, I don't. I will not apologize for feeling this way.

     Second, moving down to the more literary analysis, we have four characters, all so very different. Yet, I didn't really find anyone with whom I could identify OR that I could say I liked. I just didn't really care about them the way they were written. Too many protagonists, I think, makes it difficult to get to know any of them. And we had numerous supporting cast members, too (I actually liked some of them better than the characters themselves--like the orderlies from the care home.). Conclusion: character development just failed to inspire.

     Third, too much of the book jumped back and forth without any direction--like the man on the left, here, not quite sure which direction to go. I was just getting to try to understand one person and we switched to another. And we also had chaotic themes running through the book, one about falsifying a vision of an angel, starting and quitting a book club, getting involved in music, etc. I felt like a bouncing ball, or whiplash with all the changeups. It just wasn't compelling.

     Finally, I thought the ending sucked. Here is a short quote that might be illustrative for you: [Martin is speaking, and we are on page 261] "That's the thing with the young these days, isn't it? They watch too many happy endings. Everything has to be wrapped up, with a smile and a tear and a wave. Everyone has learned, found love, seen the error of their ways, discovered the joys of monogamy, or fatherhood, or filial duty, or life itself." "[O]r life itself[?]" Really? Discovering the joy of life is a bad thing?

     And that just about sums up the book. Nothing has been learned. We don't know, for sure, if they will continue to choose life. In fact, on the last page of the book one says, "So how about we give it another six months? See how we're doing?" (p.332) It just is like a slice of life with no end, just a piece out of the middle. And that seems to be what Hornby was going for, here. It may be successful in that Hornby achieved his goals in giving the reader this little slice of four people's lives, but I just don't think it worked well. Perhaps the movie adaptation will be more successful in giving the viewer a more palatable story; after all, we do see them having fun and laughing in the trailer.

     What did I like? Well, even though the premise is implausible, I liked the way Hornby used it to start the book. I also liked Hornby's writing style. It is easy-going and off-handedly casual and graceful. Some of the dialog was very pithy and well-done. What I liked, I liked very much, so it seems to balance out some of the negative elements of the book.

Search Results

  1. Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-273-8255                                        [14]
    National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

    FOR INTERNATIONAL HELP THIS WEB SITE LISTS PHONE NUMBERS FOR MANY COUNTRIES HOT LINES: http://www.suicide.org/international-suicide-hotlines.html

     The MPAA rating for the movie, A Long Way Down, is R, based on language. I, too, would rate the book R, but not just for the bad language. We have a very violent scene, a suicide, that everyone present sees. So, anyone who is young or of a sensitive nature should be aware of the MPAA rating from the movie.

     I'm glad I read the book, but admit I put it aside several times and had to force myself back to reading it. I probably won't read it ever again. I wanted to give it a lower rating, but felt that three stars was a fair valuation for the book. So, based on all the reasons I have given above, I give this book 3.0 stars out of 5.


     Thank you for joining me this week as we looked at the serious topic of suicide as addressed in Nick Hornby's book, A Long Way Down. This serious topic touches us all in profound ways.

     The internet can be so very impersonal. The subject of suicide is deeply personal and yet, touches us all. I may not know who you are, what your name is, or anything else about you, but every day I think about everyone of you who reads my blog posts. I try to give you a little bit of myself in the blog posts, through our mutual love of books. I feel like we are all connected. I keep you all in my prayers. And...I send you my love. The world is a better place for your being here! Stay alive. Be kind to each other.

     Please join me next week for a much, much lighter book review--we will be looking at the book and the book-to-movie, Hercules starring Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson that is slated for release to the big screen, July 25, 2014. [based on Steve Moore's, Hercules: The Thracian Wars]. I hope that will be more fun for you. And in the meantime, read something uplifting.

Until next time...
...many happy pages of reading!

All my love,


[1] "A Long Way Down." amazon.com. Retrieved 06-18-14.
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[5] "Forever and Eternity." saxjazman9.blogspot.com. Retrieved 06-22-14.
[6] "My favorite quote is...." fitnessgurusam.com. Retrieved 06-22-14.
[7] "A Long Way Down Official International Trailer #1 (2014)." youtube.com. Retrieved 06-22-14.
[8] "A Long Way Down." imdb.com. Retrieved 06-22-14.
[9] "Suicide Isn't Funny." martianmeerkat.deviantart.com. Retrieved 06-22-14.
[10] "This Crazy Thing." pardontherandomness.tumblr.com. Retrieved 06-22-14.
[11] "...The Right Direction." usatoday.com. Retrieved 06-22-14.
[12] "...Consensus Regarding the Ending It Sucked." quickmeme.com. Retrieved 06-22-14.
[13] "I Have 6 Months to..." knowthymoney.com. Retrieved 06-22-14.
[14] "Need Help?" google.com. Retrieved 06-22-14.
[15] "These Broken Stars Review." read-reread-repeat.blogspot.com. Retrieved 06-22-14.
[16] "Sending You My Warmest Hug." joannelogatoc.wordpress.com. Retrieved 06-22-14.
[17] "Top 28 White Roses Pictures for Free Download." funstock.com. Retrieved 06-22-14.