Nick Hornby


A Long Way Down


Seems to be a habit of mine that I donít get around to reviewing Hornby novels until a month or two after Iíve read them. Still, I suppose Nick would be sympathetic to the last disruption being watching far too much world cup football.


So casting detail aside my hazy impressions were that this was good, but not as good as About a Boy, How to be Good or High Fidelity. As ever his characters and dialogue felt authentic, like he was imagining people heíd met, and heís clever, enjoyable and occasionally insightful. However in this book he seems to have pretty much thrown them together to see what popped up Ė particularly with the Lodge technique of writing from different personae. This has its pleasures but I would have enjoyed the greater coherence of his other books. Perhaps thatís partly deliberate: there isnít a simple structure to apply to suicidal thoughts, and to have his characters do any less than bumble around unsuccessfully working it out as they go would be misleading. Still, I suppose I liked the reality to be tempered by the freedom of fiction: transcripts of diaries of suicidal people (there are probably myriad blogs that cover this by now) may be interesting and educational, but theyíre hardly a novel.


OK, sure, he does get to throw his characters into unlikely situations, and we do get the interaction, but I would have like him taking the solid material of this book as the basis for telling a story.


June 2006