Since my children are huge Nick Hornby fans, I’ve been roped into reading a few of his books. I have to confess, though, they’re actually really good…
Will has been insulating himself successfully against any real job or real purpose in life or real feelings, until he has the brilliant idea of finding women through a support group for single parents. The fact that he has neither a spouse nor a real son does not stop him. Through this group, he meets Marcus, an extremely awkward 12 year old boy, newly come to London, who worms his way into Will’s life and ultimately into Will’s heart.
Hornby has a unique writing style. These characters begin fairly flatly, and throughout the book broaden and become more likable and colorful over time. Both Will and Marcus have severe limitations at the outset of the book but they evolve into characters who can feel much more and who can express themselves much more as they both grow from the events in the story.
The story is told with warmth and humor and a rough honesty that is what makes Hornby’s writing so unique. I have a feeling that these characters so simply written about will actually stay with me for a long time.
You may have seen the movie years ago, as I did, but my son recently read this and loved it and I love reading what my kids have read. I can see why my son loved it — it is basically the musings of a 35 year old man-child. It’s a coming-of-age story of a typical commitment-fearing, self-absorbed, regular guy, Rob, who realizes that his life is falling apart, after his girlfriend leaves him and his record store is failing. As he seeks to sort himself out, by running through his various older failed relationships, he works his way back to finding himself and actually growing into the adult he’s supposed to have been all this time.
What is engaging about this book is the humor. The sarcasm is great and there are some extraordinarily memorable lines. (A particular favorite: “I’ve been thinking with my guts since I was fourteen years old, and frankly speaking, between you and me, I have come to the conclusion that my guts have shit for brains.” page 315) And a recurring theme is the top 5 lists that Rob shares throughout the story, which are fun. Many relate to music, as he is the owner of a record store (during the days of transition from LP’s to CD’s) and this is fun.
It’s less of a story (as not all that much actually happens), and more of a continuous stream of thoughts, but they are fun thoughts and very relatable (if that is even a word). Enjoy!
A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby
This book, written by the author of High Fidelity, is a crazy novel about 4 very disparate people who happen to meet on the roof of a building on New Year’s Eve because they’ve each made a plan to kill themselves. As they begin to realize that they are all there for the same purpose, they begin a discussion about why they are up there. And so begins a bizarre sort of friendship among the four that somehow persists in spite of themselves. Their dialogue is honest and raw and insane and their story is odd and quirky, and the mood vacillates from laugh-out-loud to profoundly sad.
What adds to the color of this book is the change in the voice. Each chapter is narrated by one of the four main characters, and each of their voices is unique. They are really so different from each other — really their only common thread is their mutual suicidal inclination. They do not even seem to like each other, which adds to both the chaos and humor in the story. Each one is philosophical in his or her own way, though, and through them the author manages to comment on life and life struggles and questions of why we bother with it all. Each character, in joining this weird brotherhood of sorts, searches for what gives his/her life its meaning and makes it worth carrying on in the face of what seem to be insurmountable troubles. And it’s fairly entertaining to join them for this ride!