That Nick Hornby can avoid these and other pitfalls of a book with this premise makes him a hero-author to me.
I was engaged throughout the book. The writing is authoritative (a novel told in four first-persons point-of-view had better exude authority) without being arrogant. Morality was something that was touched on often, but never with a heavy hand.
When people contemplate suicide and life, they are bound to have many moments of reflection and rumination, yet none of it in the book is announced and treated as Deep Thought Moments. The characters wondered about things, observed the newest unexpected turn of events, and came to certain conclusions, but these moments never felt contrived or overwrought. And while some of the events seemed bizarre, they didn't feel forced.
At the Lit Lab yesterday, the topic was on novel structure and the reinvention of the form. (They are much more articulate over there and you should read the post and the comments.)
I am not convinced that A Long Way Down qualifies as a novel that broke the mold but its form was most definitely the outcome of the story. Because it didn't follow any formula that I recognized, my reading experience was an adventure. I was never quite sure what the next chapter would bring but I didn't care. I did not miss having any idea about where the story would lead; I just wanted to follow it as it unfolded. The anticipation and fulfillment were often very satisfying.
I am going to check out more Hornby books. I don't know what to expect, but I secretly hope each one will dictate the structure and I will continue to be drawn to pursue what comes next.
Any other Hornby fans out there? Detractors?