Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Review: Juliet, Naked by Nick Hornby

Throughout their fifteen year relationship, Annie has had to put up with Duncan's obsession with the rock singer Tucker Crowe. It is like having a third person in the relationship. The only thing Duncan ever seems to talk about is Tucker Crowe's music, particularly his most famous album, 'Juliet'. He spends a lot of time on discussion forums with other Crowe fans. The story starts with him dragging Anne on a Crowe-themed sightseeing tour, and sneaking into the San Francisco house owned by the woman who was supposedly the inspiration for 'Juliet'.
Back home, while Duncan is out, a package is delivered and Anne decides to open it. It contains a pre-release copy of 'Juliet, Naked', an album of demo and acoustic versions of the songs from 'Juliet', sent with the intention that Duncan should write a review of it. Anne listens to the album before Duncan does, and whereas Duncan thinks it is an emotionally-charged work of genius, Anne isn't at all impressed by it. She decides, mainly to get at Duncan, to post a scathing review on his fan site. To her surprise, she receives an email from the elusive Tucker Crowe, and the two begin to hit it off through secret online correspondence.
This definitely wasn't my favourite of Hornby's novels. It is very bleak throughout, even more so than 'A Long Way Down'! The ending doesn't really wrap anything up, and it left me feeling depressed about all the characters. In the end, Anne (who has been wanting a baby for a long time but Duncan was never interested) ends up sleeping with Tucker and sneakily 'forgetting' contraception in order to get pregnant. I think this was meant to be seen as a win on her part, but I just found it really creepy and a bit sad.
I also found the story very slow-moving, and from the blurb it sounded like there would be a big cast of weird and wonderful characters, but we actually only meet them briefly before they're gone again and it's back to the boring relationship angst between two very neurotic and irritating people. I don't think books should be allowed to make a big deal about characters in the blurb if they only get a tiny amount of page-time!
I did enjoy the general commentary on how obsessive music fans end up overthinking the music, and how the reality to all their theories is actually very mundane - and how when Tucker finally does release a whole new album, all his fans hate it because they have built him up so much in their minds that it is impossible for him to live up to their standards.

I think my problem with this book is that, while in Hornby's other books the characters are always quite likeable despite their very serious flaws, in Juliet, Naked I didn't really find myself rooting for any of them, because if they weren't downright irritating they were just very dull. I think if you want an enjoyable, funny, music-themed read which doesn't leave you miserable, High Fidelity is the one to go for!

2.5/5 - could have been a lot worse, and I'm sure I just have bad taste in books and it's actually really good...but I just wasn't feeling it with this one.

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