Title: Juliet, Naked
Author: Nick Hornby
On the Shelves: Fiction> Contemporary
Nick Hornby returns to his roots-music and messy relationships-in this funny and touching new novel which thoughtfully and sympathetically looks at how lives can be wasted but how they are never beyond redemption.
Annie lives in a dull town on England’s bleak east coast and is in a relationship with Duncan which mirrors the place; Tucker was once a brilliant songwriter and performer, who’s gone into seclusion in rural America-or at least that’s what his fans think. Duncan is obsessed with Tucker’s work, to the point of derangement, and when Annie dares to go public on her dislike of his latest album, there are quite unexpected, life-changing consequences for all three.
Nick Hornby uses this intriguing canvas to explore why it is we so often let the early promise of relationships, ambition and indeed life evaporate. And he comes to some surprisingly optimistic conclusions about the struggle to live up to one’s promise. (Goodreads 2014)
My friend bought me this for my birthday a couple of months ago. She is quite a big fan of Hornby’s work and knew that I had not previously enjoyed “A Long Way Down” (abandoned in 2012.), and assured me that I would enjoy Juliet, Naked.
I decided to pick it up to give myself a break from the long books I am reading at the moment. I actually picked it up intending it to be my new “train” book, meaning I’d read a chapter or two every time I got on the train or bus to go somewhere. I enjoyed it enough to read it to not want to put it down and actually read the entire book in two days. This is not a long book, so I’m not saying that as a massive statement, but considering I was not intending, or expecting to want to read it so quickly, it did suck me in. So that’s a good sign!
My main issues here were with the characters themselves. However, I can appreciate that this seems to be a trait of Hornby’s. He likes writing “fucked up characters”, basically. Characters you will not necessarily love or laugh with but rather want to slap in the face. I hope that is his intention, anyway, because it is how I spent all of this book and most of what I read in “A Long Way Down”.
Juliet, Naked follows a couple who basically come to the end of a fifteen year relationship (if you can call it that), due to the fact one of them is disturbing obsessed with a singer from the 80s. Duncan, the obsesser, is a pretentious prat and my god, I spent the entire book wanting to slap him. But also I had the same reaction to Annie., she irritated me because she was literally doing nothing to help herself.
Annie constantly admitted in the early chapters that she hated the last 15 years, she felt they had been wasted, she had no feelings of a romantic nature for Duncan, and had no idea what she was still doing with him. But I can sympathise in that after being with him for so long, she didn’t want to throw that away and be “scarily single” again, I guess. (In my personal opinion, that is stupid. But that is my personal opinion and probably not the “General opinion” of this situation). I honestly have no idea how she didn’t leave Duncan years earlier. Annie is also attending therapy. Not because she wants to, but she feels somehow obligated by some weird social convention to go to a rubbish therapist who seems to have no understanding or qualifications in therapy at all- I honestly do not get Annie’s logic at all. Speaking of Duncan, like I said, he is a pretentious fanboy. To the extreme. Like “standing outside someone’s house because they are mentioned in a song by his favourite singer” obsessed. If I knew anyone like that literally, in real life? I’d be running away.
But I also spent this book being irked by other characters as well, so it isn’t just the main two. And somehow, despite all of this, I still enjoyed the book enough to finish it! I’ve stopped reading books for a lot less than 3 characters annoying me! I guess Hornby’s writing really did suck me in this time.
I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys contemporary reads- but fair warning, the characters may grate on your nerves!