This paperback edition of Hornby’s latest has been seasonally released in a Christmas edition, no doubt in consideration of the novel’s gently life-affirming aspirations. Sadly for fans of his novels, this barely approaches the poignant heights of Fever Pitch or High Fidelity, as it is what could only be described as a poor cousin of the film, It’s a Wonderful Life (albeit with a smidgen more gritty London-based realism, and a marginally less triumphant ending).
The multiple narratives of four suicidal depressives come together in a contrived scenario. They meet at ‘Toppers’ House’ on New Year’s Eve, replete with stereotypical characters and lazy plotting. Although readable and at times funny (in the Hornby-esque sense of being quirky and well-observed, rather than outright hilarious), the characters rarely command sympathy and the scenarios range between the incessantly dull and the ridiculously unlikely.
Hornby is at his best when reflecting upon contemporary society and in describing the musical tastes of his characters. However, the book feels like a forced extension of a novella or play, based around an interesting concept but ultimately failing to convince.