To what extent can A Long Way Down be considered typical of the kind of work that Nick Hornby produces?
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Although this novel is overtly very different in the way that it is much smaller in scope than Hornby's other novels, at the same time it is possible to see similar themes and topics that occur in his other works, such as obsessiveness, the feeling of not belonging and emotional ineptness. What this book does is to assemble four very different characters who, for different reasons, are all struggling with life, and bring them together at the top of a building, known as Toppers House because of the way people commit suicide there. However, this book is of course not really about suicide in any way; rather, it is a psychological focus on those who have plummetted in terms of their own self-esteem and identity, or, in the words of the title, have come "a long way down."
Where the book does differ from Hornby's earlier works is that the ending is not the normal saccharine-sweet unbelievable ending that he turns to in other books. There is a kind of bittersweet believable nature about the endings of each of the main four characters. For example, Martin still remains cynical, even though he is now mentoring a youth called Pacino. In the same way, Maureen's problems are still very much there, but being an alternate member of a pub quiz group seems to offer some relief from them. These a minor triumphs that make this story more realistic compared to Hornby's other works. Consider, too, the ending, when the characters view the London Eye from afar:
“Is that thing actually going around?” said Martin. “I can’t tell.” We stared at it for a long time, trying to work it out. Martin was right. It didn’t look as though it was moving, but it must have been, I suppose.
This is typical of the human scope of this work. From the perspective of these characters, it is impossible to understand or comprehend the London Eye and whether it is actually moving or not, as their lives are so small in comparison. This work therefore, although it picks up similar themes from other novels by Hornby, likewise differs in its more realistic stance towards these issues and the ending that is achieved.
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