Saturday, July 23, 2011

Juliet, Naked, by Nick Hornby

I love Nick Hornby. I will read anything by Nick Hornby. This, I must admit, is not my favorite of his novels. Luckily, even a mediocre Nick Hornby book is still pretty good.

Duncan is obsessed with Tucker Crowe, a singer-songwriter who turned his back on the world in the 80's, while on tour to publicize his biggest hit. Annie has been Duncan's default girlfriend ever since they both moved to a depressing seaside town where nothing much happens. When a new Tucker Crowe recording turns up, Duncan, Annie and Tucker all confront the limbo they've been trapped in for the past 15 years, with varying results.

Nick Hornby is really great at this kind of writing. He writes women sympathetically; his men are openly flawed. Music is generally the backdrop, and often a kid appears to keep everyone focused. This book has all of these elements, plus a couple of difficult girlfriends to keep the ball rolling.

One thing I missed in this novel was the soundtrack. Tucker Crowe is fictional, and while his genre of music is easy to classify, I couldn't hear his music in my head, since, well, it doesn't really exist. I'm used to a background of hits from my youth accompanying Hornby's novels, and I couldn't quite find it.

The basic idea of this book is a good one - Annie strikes up a relationship with her boyfriend's idol, unbalancing the staid balance of everyone's lives. We get to see how obsession taints its object, how losing your convictions leads to waste of all kinds, why regrets are useless. Really, all the elements of a very satisfying novel. Unfortunately, it doesn't quite come together the way I would have wished. It seems just a little contrived, a little too simple. This could be a summer movie; a romantic comedy, which I might be enticed to see if the stars were of the Cusak/Downey, Jr. variety. There's even a great role for Jack Black. Nick Hornby has had great luck in having his books made into really good movies; maybe we'll see this one on the big screen. It will gain a much bigger audience, have a really good soundtrack, and no one will be bothered by its predictability.

My next Hornby book: 31 Songs, a collections of essays about the songs that have changed his life.


  1. I'm a big Hornby fan and this one actually worked well for me. I feel like he's at he's ebst when he writes about music, reading and slightly older couples (not teens) and this one had all of that. A Long Way Down didn't work for me, because it was missing those things. I'm with you though, I would have loved a soundtrack of Tucker's music. Great review!

  2. Melissa, I think I liked A Long Way Down better, but honestly I don't remember it all that well! Nick Hornby makes the short list of people I'd like to have dinner with...