A Long Way Down is a novel by British author Nick Hornby (of High Fidelity and About a Boy fame). The book concerns four people who meet on the roof of "Topper's House", London's prime suicide spot, on New Years Eve. All are planning to kill themselves for various reasons:
Martin Smart, a disgraced breakfast TV presenter has recently come out of prison after serving a term for statutory rape, having had an affair with a 15 year old girl (who, to be fair, told him she was 18), he's lost his wife, his children, his job and his agent - though the replacement agent has got him another job: on the world's least popular cable TV channel.
Martin is interrupted in his preparations for self-annihilation by Maureen, who is impatient to put a period to her own existence. She's a middle aged woman whose one sexual experience many years earlier led to a pregnancy and thereafter to a profoundly physically and intellectually disabled son, who relies on her totally for all his care, effectively chaining her to the house in servitude.
Jess, who follows them up is eighteen years old, and the daughter of the Junior Minister for Education. Her older sister disappeared three years earlier, she has a tense relationship with her parents and the boyfriend who dumped her a few months back refuses to talk to her, now matter how she stalks him.
JJ is American, and delivering pizza because his music career has failed to take off, and he has broken up with his English girlfriend, who was the reason for his being in England. He isn't living the life he planned on and this seems sufficient reason, to him, to kill himself, though when the four share their stories, he seems to see it as less sufficient, and so invents a terminal illness.
All thwarted in their intentions (none of them is up to performance suicide, so can't jump with an audience) the four form an unlikely alliance, looking at solving each other's problems, insofar as they are soluble, and agreeing to put off any attempt to kill themselves until the next prime date for doing oneself in after New Years Eve - Valentines day.
The book displays all Hornby's characteristic acerbic wit, together with an authentic warmth. The characters are all a good deal less than perfect but all have genuinely likeable traits along with their faults, and the faults are the type it's not hard to empathise with.
This book is an intelligent and involving journey, which makes the reader care, however reluctantly for the ill-assorted characters. I enjoyed it, and anyone who likes Hornby's style will certainly do so too.