161 of 172 people found the following review helpful
on September 29, 2009
All you really need to know about Juliet, Naked, Nick Hornby's latest, is
that it doesn't disappoint. It's really, really good, and it may even
replace High Fidelity as my favorite.
The main characters are Annie and Duncan, a middle-aged couple, and Tucker
Crowe, an aging musician in retirement. Annie and Duncan have a
relationship-ending fight about the quality of Tucker Crowe's new album,
and Annie begins a correspondence with Tucker Crowe himself.
Juliet, Naked is about Regret. Big, mid-life crisis level Regret -- grief
and anger at the too-quick passage of time, of wasted opportunities. It's
about the realization that one has not Done Enough, or Done the Right
This may sound unappetizing. But one of the rare and great features of
Nick Hornby's writing is how he takes situations that would normally be
dreary, such as a serious break-up (High Fidelity) or teenage pregnancy
(Slam), and makes these situations hilariously funny. His characters are
self-aware about themselves in some ways, but not at all in other ways.
These gaps in self-knowledge, and Hornby's gentle handling of them, are
exquisite in their subtlety and insight.
This book reminded me: (1) Do the work you love, and (2) Strive to spend
time with the people who (a) love you and (b) who you love in return.
Which of us doesn't need this reminder, always?
44 of 50 people found the following review helpful
on November 17, 2009
I haven't read anything by Nick Hornby before, although I have seen two films that were based on his novels (and both were quite good). I should qualify my review by saying that I was a little skeptical starting the novel, thinking it might be a little too `relationship drama' for my personal tastes. A romantic comedy may be a perfectly good option for a night at home watching a DVD with my lovely wife, but reading is a solitary experience, and generally speaking, I prefer darker nastier fare than what Juliet Naked promises its readers.
But I really enjoyed the first half of the novel. In particular I found Duncan (and Duncan seen through the eyes of Annie, his long suffering girlfriend) to be quite hilarious. Duncan is a fan of a relatively obscure singer/songwriter who disappeared abruptly in the mid-eighties shortly after the release of his most critically acclaimed album, Juliet. A mystic builds around the singer, Tucker Crowe, who has become a recluse in the spirit of JD Salinger. Duncan is the eminent Crowologist, an obsessive fan who maintains a web site devoted to Tucker lore, alleged sightings of the singer, and interpretations of his song lyrics. We meet Annie and Duncan while they are on vacation in the US, making pilgrimage to the bar bathroom where Tucker decided to walk away from his career.
But the novel started to lose me a little when Tucker Crowe enters the fray. After the demo tapes of Juliet are released, as a CD called Juliet Naked, Duncan writes a gushing review and posts it on his website, declaring it a masterwork. Annie posts a contrary review and soon after, she starts receiving (and then exchanging) emails from the reclusive singer. Annie and Tucker develop a romance of sorts but it never really generates much in the way of sparks, humor or warmth and compared to Annie and Duncan, Tucker isn't nearly as entertaining a character.
Neither Duncan nor Tucker change much as a result of anything that happens in the novel. They are both hopelessly incapable of creating any kind of meaningful relationship with women. In Tucker's case, he leaves a trail of abandoned children and former lovers in his wake. So this then, is really Annie's story. Annie comes to realize that she has fallen into a rut and gradually makes small changes to regain control of her life. This is a novel about regret and realizing that you have to make a conscious decision to get what you want out of life, otherwise it'll come and go before you know it. The ending is ambiguous and it isn't clear what the future holds for Annie, but the reader can see that she's on her way to changing the course of her life. I like that Hornby didn't give the novel an artificially happy ending or have Annie have a ridiculous and unrealistic 'epiphany moment'.
All in all I found this to a pretty entertaining novel. I'm something of a music buff and Hornby's insight into music, musicians, and the fans that obsess on them is priceless. The prose is filled with great lines, sharp dialogue and some genuine laugh-out-loud moments. Annie is a fully realized and engaging character and Duncan adds plenty of humor to the novel. In the end, my middling review is mostly a result of Tucker, who doesn't bring much to the table.
Bottom line: I found this to be a good light read - funny, insightful - but the final third lacked something, and in the end, it felt a little flat to me. I enjoyed it enough though that I plan to check out some of Hornby's more celebrated novels. 3 ½ stars.
25 of 28 people found the following review helpful
on October 8, 2009
Nick Hornby has a bit of a reputation as a writer whose appeal is largely to young, pop culturally-obsessed men. While it's true that his earlier novels do focus on not-yet-fully-formed young men and their often unsolicited journeys towards adulthood, I always thought he was a writer remarkably sensitive and sympathetic to all his characters, male or female.
Hornby's newest novel, Juliet, Naked, is a wonderful, sweet book. The story focuses on three characters approaching or exiting middle aged, and how they deal with the regret of unfulfilled lives.
Duncan is a teacher who only comes to life when talking, listening to or writing about reclusive singer-songwriter Tucker Crowe. Annie is in a dead-end long-term relationship with Duncan and in a dead-end job as a seaside museum curator. And then there's Tucker Crowe, who has not recorded in over two decades and has been a disinterested observer of his own withdrawal from both his creative life.
I'll leave for you to discover how a small, uncharacteristically assertive action of Annie's - a dissenting post on Duncan's all-things-Tucker-Crowe website - sets into motion a series of events that forces all of these characters out of their respective ruts.
What's wonderful about Hornby's writing is that he understands and is compassionate towards all of his characters. You can think that Duncan is a sad, small man whose obsessive expertise regarding Crowe's small catalogue is a poor excuse for an actual life, but Hornby lets you understand how he got that way, and respects Duncan's intelligence and passion, however misapplied.
(I understand Duncan - his core belief that you can judge the value of people by the value of their cultural taste - and while I'd like to think (please, please) that I've never taken his road, I understand all too well how someone might make the mistakes he's made.)
I also love the way Hornby presents what seems to be a very British worldview - pessimism combined with unfailing politeness. His characters manage to give pointed, incisive criticism to each other, yet retain a social propriety that you may find charming or frustrating, depending I suspect on whether you are or are not British. Either way, though, the characters are human and alive and just like people you know.
Finally, although Juliet, Naked is not a music book, Hornby writes about music with the expertise of someone who, like Duncan, has given a lot of thought about art, and artists. Here, he writes with command about the mindset of the cult fan, the "more-obscure-the-better" value model the cult fan embraces, and where, exactly, the cult artist himself fits in this ecosystem (hint: artists generate great work but may not be the best judges of their worth).
Hornby is a rare writer who crafts literary novels for mass audiences. He is proof of an argument he has made about many great recording artists in his music writing - that you can create art of great, lasting value while remaining a crowd-pleaser. In that respect, he doesn't aspire to be Tucker Crowe, prototypical cult artist - he wants to be the Beatles.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
If you've had the pleasure of reading Nick Hornby once, it's hard to imagine not wanting to read all of his subsequent works. Certainly that is true of me, and I've finally had the chance to read his latest, Juliet, Naked. I don't know that this surpasses his very strongest work, but in no way does that imply that it is anything less than delightful.
Juliet, Naked is the story of three people. At the very center is Annie. Annie has been in a 15-year-relationship with Duncan. Duncan's not a bad guy, but perhaps the most notable thing about him is his obsessive fandom for a long-retired, minor musician named Tucker Crowe. Tucker is the third character in this triangle. We get one picture of Tucker's life and art through Duncan's smitten (and ignorant) eyes, but we are also privy to the reality, which is quite a bit different.
That is the set-up. Once we've met all the players, there is a catalyst that results in two major plot developments. The catalyst is the release of Tucker Crowe's album Juliet, Naked, a new, stripped-down version of his classic album, Juliet. It's the first anyone's heard from Crowe in 20 years, and the reception is polarizing. So much so, that it's the straw that breaks the back of Annie and Duncan's relationship. The other major, if improbably, development is that Annie and Tucker strike up a friendship. The novel is a warm, funny, affectionate look at three flawed individuals. Despite their flaws, it's hard not to fall in love with them. I can think of any number of less pleasant things to do than while away a few hours in their company.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on January 22, 2013
Juliet, Naked is the most boring book I have ever read--and I have read a lot of books in my 73 years. Maybe you just have to be British (I'm not) to appreciate Hornby's wry style. At one point Cat, the wife of the moment of former musician Tucker Crowe, says, "I think we've reached the end of the road." (in their relationship)Tucker: "I am sorry sweetheart. I think you are probably right." Cat: "And that is all you have to say?" Tucker: "I think so."
The story centers around Annie, a middle-aged woman who has been in a dysfunctional relationship with Duncan, a university teacher who has an obsessive attitude toward the music of Tucker Crowe, who was popular in the late seventies largely on the basis of one album, "Juliet." They live in an obscure town called "Gooleness" somewhere in the north of Britain (There actually is a town called "Goole," but Tucker Crowe is a fictional character. Now some years later another album, called "Juliet, Naked" appears consisting of demo songs from the original appears, setting off a chain reaction among the characters. None of the characters are remotely interesting, least of all Tucker who is the stereotypical screwed up musician. Read it only if you have no other reading material at hand as I had.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on October 10, 2009
I remember plowing through Long Way Down in one evening while on a trip to San Diego. I actually had the audio version on my iPod, which included a single male narrator doing all the voices, even the women, of a book written in the first person. But that didn't stop me from loving that book and having a great memory of sitting out watching the ocean while listening to the incredible story with characters I truly missed when the book ended.
It's been a few years since, and I never got around to reading Slam. But I downloaded Juliet Naked on my Kindle for a quick trip to New York. I can't say I finished it in one day, but pretty damn close. It took a little longer for the characters to grab me. In my laymen opinion, the fact that we move into the story so subtlety may be a sign of even better writing. The story just unfolds at nice pace.
I think what amazes me most if how much Hornby makes me care about his characters, and this is very much the case n Juliet, Naked. Even the annoying Duncan is exonerated with his "you asked us to listen" line, which is one my favorites.
I am going to say that Long Way Down is still my favorite Hornby book, but Juliet, Naked is #2. I'm anxious to download Slam and see what I missed there, and of course I look forward to Hornby's next masterpiece.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on March 12, 2013
I've never read any Hornby before - High Fidelity and About A Boy are probably his two most famous novels, but he's got a slew of others and a pretty large (and apparently quite devoted) fan base. And having read many of the reviews of his work, I was excited to read Juliet, Naked - unfortunately I wasn't as impressed as Hornby's minions.
So here's the trajectory of this book - Intro: ok, ok, nice change of pace from the depths of depression of A Possible Life. I dig it, let's keep on keeping on. Beginning of body: character development - check, plot development - double check, we've got a goody on our hands! Middle of body: loving where this is going - what a great read so far... End of body: ok, we're losing direction a little, but maybe the end will pick up a bit. Ending: _______ ??? (a.k.a. no ending).
Hornby tried too hard for that mysterious non-ending ending, but it just didn't work. What's worse, is that he had actually set himself up to have a really great book, but just kind of lost focus and let it flop. The characters were wonderful - until they weren't. And the story was heading in the direction of special - until it wasn't. Sorry old Nick-o, I just don't get what the hype is all about.
14 of 19 people found the following review helpful
Nick Hornby's newest novel, Juliet, Naked, is about has-been musician Tucker, Duncan, the man who's obsessed with him, and Annie, Duncan's long-term girlfriend, who finds herself in the middle.
- As always, Hornby puts a great deal of care and effort into constructing realistic, dynamic characters. I recently saw him at a reading, and I could tell how much he thought about each of them, even the most minor, like Annie's friend Ros. He knows them, and has created them, as actual people.
- Also character related, is the fact that everyone can connect to someone in the novel. Perhaps you've been been a crazed fan, someone who failed to reach their potential, or stuck in a dead-end relationship. Above all, everyone knows what it feels like to have made mistakes and want to fix them before it's too late.
- The sly wit reminiscent of High Fidelity and How to Be Good is once again present (I felt it took a bit of a hiatus in the last novel, A Long Way Down). Smart, British, biting humor.
- Hornby writes with an intelligent simplicity- he respects his readers enough to realize that they don't need three pages describing the dreary sea or the seaside museum Annie works in. He realizes they have brains and allows them the freedom to create their own pictures.
- I feel Juliet, Naked slightly misses the bar raised so very high by High Fidelity, About a Boy, and How to Be Good.
- I don't want to give anything away, but I had a few issues with the ending. I realize the point (so don't start lambasting me under the comments for "not getting it"), but I just didn't appreciate it.
Great read for those who love Hornby and those who are reading him for the first time. Also, if you ever get a chance to attend a reading I recommend you go.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on January 27, 2010
Dickens did orphans better than anyone. Hornby does a special, modern kind of orphan, that is "losers-obsessed-with-rock-music" better than anyone ever will. Not quite "High Fidelity," but a great read. Unlike other reviewers, I especially liked the ending. Just read it carefully, and a couple times, and you'll get a big smile.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on September 2, 2014
This is my favorite of the Nick Hornby books I have read so far, though I should add that I have enjoyed the movie adaptations I've seen more than the books I've read. To date there has been no cross over of those two lists. I haven't read the book versions of the Hornby movies I've seen (High Fidelity, About a Boy, Fever Pitch), and have not seen movie versions of the books I've read (How to be Good, A Long Way Down, and now, Juliet, Naked). Apparently A Long Way Down has been made into a movie, so upon seeing it, at last I'll be able to compare novel to movie. Hornby likes to write about things that people are passionate about in addition to or instead of other people. The obsession could be sports, perhaps a particular team. Or music, perhaps a particular band or artist. That last one describes Juliet, Naked. It gives us the story of a man who is fanatical about a singer/songwriter who has not released an album in 20 years. The last album that Tucker Crowe did release is a musical holy grail to Duncan. He devotes countless hours sharing conspiracy theories about Crowe's life and music with fellow devotees on the internet. Duncan's long time girlfriend appreciates Tucker's music as well, but is more or less along for Duncan's single focus ride. Duncan and Annie are not particularly passionate about each other, and this has been the case since the beginning of their relationship rather than the result of affection dwindling over the ravages of time. They got together because in the small town they live in, they made more sense together than being with anyone else. Over the course of the book Tucker transitions from being a distant object of idolatry to a person that Annie corresponds with via email, and eventually, a flesh and blood person in their actual lives. Duncan has never had feelings for Annie comparable to his intensity of emotional reaction to Tucker's music. Nothing personal against her, as Duncan doesn't seem capable of feeling strongly towards anyone. By the story's end, Annie is perhaps finally ready to form a relationship based on desire rather than convenience of location. As for Tucker, he thinks primarily about himself and the mess he has made of his life while also managing to be a decent father to his youngest child. Towards the end of the book Tucker reflects that a considerable amount of significant events have taken place in a relatively short amount of time, yet he feels mostly unchanged by them. Likewise, I'm feeling unchanged by this book. Yet I have to say that it was an enjoyable and interesting read. Hornby characters think about themselves and others and their circumstances and their obsessions in entertaining fashion. It doesn't much matter what does or does not take place during your visit with them. Either way you're glad you stopped by.