Listening to the Audible version of Nick Hornby’s novel, A Long Way Down, is a highly entertaining way to appreciate this otherwise rather dour novel. Yet what shines through is Hornby’s comedic genius, his Existential Angst, and his ability to plumb deeply into the psyche of four losers who have climbed to the top of a London 12-story apartment building on New Year’s Eve to commit suicide.
We meet Martin, a former TV talk-show host who has recently lost his job, his family and his understanding of his life because of his misdeeds. There is Maureen, a 50-ish woman who sees no way out of a grim future. Jess, eighteen, is as hilariously loony as a colt on loco weed. J.J., an American leader of a has-been rock band, is drowning in his own tears of self-pity. They form one of the strangest bonds four people can have, trying to figure out – existentially, needless to say – why they want to off themselves.
What enhances the story is the voiceover actors in the Audible version. (I think I’ll give the film version a pass.) Raucous, uninhibited Jess (voiceover be Kate Reading) had me laughing out loud while wearing my earbuds. (Why were people staring at me?) Martin can’t get off the ever-turning wheel of doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Maureen suffers with, and from, her self-inflicted Catholicism. J.J. (voiceover by one of my favorites, Scott Brick) transposes his band-leader management style on the others to absurd and sometimes disastrous effect.
They are a motley crew and yet each individual comes to life through the strength of their narrations. For me, Jess was the most realized. But hats off to Nick Hornby, for A Long Way Down was so good I listened to it twice.