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Nick Hornby: a Long Way Down

Essay Topic:

His first book Fever Pitch was released in 1992. It’s an autobiographical story about his fanatical support for Arsenal Football Club. High Fidelity — his second book and first novel — was published in 1995. The novel was adapted into a film in 2000 and a Broadway musical in 2006. For his second novel About a Boy (1998) Hornby received the E. M. Forster Award of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

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Hugh Grant and Nicholas Hoult starred in the 2002 film version. A Long Way Down was published in 2005 in the UK. The book received mixed reviews from critics.

Johnny Depp bought the rights to the book before it was even published and has since hired writer D. V. DeVincentis, who previously wrote the script for the film High Fidelity, to write the screenplay. The story takes place in London sometime these days. Martin Sharp – Martin Sharp is a former celebrity. We don’t know his exact age but he is in his 40-s. Martin’s life was perfect: he had a wife and two little daughters, a well-paid job and was successful. He was host of a famous show but Martin made the mistake of sleeping with a 15 years old girl, for which he spent three months in prison.

This made him even more popular as his case was stripped in the yellow press. When he is released from prison he discovers that his marriage is ruined. From that point he works for a cable TV channel with low popularity and has an affair with Penny, his former colleague. He does not make an effort to see his daughters or to clarify the tense situation with his wife. He’s very unhappy about his situation and feels that he has “pissed his life away” and that’s why he wants to end his life. Maureen – Maureen is a 51-year-old single mother of a disabled son named Matty.

Her whole life is turning around Matty. She believes that it is her cross she must bear for her mistake (Matty was born out of wedlock). She has led a completely closed-in life for two decades raising him. Before she got Matty she was employed and outgoing. This has changed because she has to care for Matty the whole day. She has no freedom and free time except the services at church she attends every Sunday. She wants to get rid of her problems, which seems impossible to her. That is why she wants to commit suicide. Jess Crichton – Jess is an eighteen-year-old girl. She does not have real friends.

Jess is a person who pisses people off very quickly with her direct and rude character because she says everything that comes to her mind. Jess’s father is a local politician and the family is completed by her mother. Her sister Jen, who is really important to her, left the family a few years ago and is thought to have committed suicide. The whole family, especially the mother and Jess, are still very upset about it. She wants to commit suicide by jumping from the tower block because of her family problems and losing her ex-boyfriend though it’s also slightly impulsive.

JJ – JJ is an American who came to London with his girlfriend Lizzy. He used to play in a band called “Big Yellow” and toured across the whole UK. For Lizzy he gave up his dream of becoming a rock star, the band broke up and Lizzy dumped him. Now he earns money by delivering pizza, a fact that he is really unhappy with. He compares his own ambition for suicide with the ambitions of well-known musicians These four strangers happen to meet on the roof of a high building called Topper’s House in London on New Year’s Eve, each with the intent of committing suicide. Their plans for death in solitude, however, are ruined when they meet.

After telling their individual stories to the others, they decide to hold off on jumping and to protect themselves. Thus a group of four unfortunate and very individual people forms. Jess’ condition not to jump is that they help her to find her ex-boyfriend Chas. So they take a taxi and drive to the party they suppose Chas to be at. After finding and talking to Chas they decide to go to Martin’s place where they find Penny, who has obviously been crying. After this event the press begins to chase them. The newspapers claim that Martin has slept with Jess and that they concluded a suicidal-pact.

Jess suggests that they can try to profit from the suicidal-report in the newspaper. Jess tells a reporter that they saw an angel that looked like Matt Damon, who saved them from jumping. Because of this silly lie their lives get worse. They go on vacation together and then plan next meeting for Saint Valentine’s Day. They meet at 8 o’clock on the roof of Topper’s House on Saint Valentine’s Day. While they have a conversation, they detect a young man who is planning to jump from the roof. They try to stop him from committing suicide but he jumps. They are really taken aback.

They decide to go home and to meet the following afternoon. Martin tells them about a newspaper article he read according to which people who want to commit suicide need 90 days to overcome their ambition. So they decide to wait with their decision until the 31st of March. A lot of event happens during these three months. Things improve a bit. Maureen, JJ and Martin have new jobs now. Martin teaches pupils and wants to start a new life, JJ is a busker and is happy to make music again and Maureen works in a newspaper-store. Jess’s relationships with her family come to normal.

The ninety days have passed and they meet in front of the Topper’s House again. They decide to go on the roof. On top, while watching the London Eye they realize that their lives are not so bad. They decide to wait with killing themselves for another six months. The book is divided into 3 big parts. And every big part consists of many small ones, each is written in the first-person narration from the points of view of each character. The language differs significantly from one character to another. Jess and JJ use a lot of slang, rude words. It’s interesting to compare British and American languages, thus JJ is an American.

Though this is a book about four suicidal people, it is written in rather humorous and witty way. There are a number of laugh-out-loud passages, but also moments of real heartbreak (scenes with Maureen and her son, the suicide of a young man) Ideas Jess, Martin, and Maureen can be seen to represent Freud’s concepts of the Id, Ego, and Superego. The person’s change and development, overcoming difficulties and love for life are the main ideas of the book. Though the changes in the characters appear slight, Hornby shows that such changes are often the ones that lead to real progress in the right direction

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