When the magic fades from their relationship, Duncan cheats on Annie, effectively ending their life together. After the split, Annie begins an online correspondence with Duncan's colleague, musician Tucker Crowe. As the two share their painful past, they develop an unlikely friendship.
Juliet Naked is the story of a lost rock star, a completist fan and his partner. Annie and Duncan have reached that point in their lives where their shared love of the reclusive US rock star Tucker Crowe isn’t enough any longer. Duncan, one of the world’s foremost Croweologists is obsessed by the man, his music, his lyrics, his concerts; Annie’s interest is waning – she needs more than this from life – a baby is at the top of the list. Meanwhile Tucker had walked out of a tour some years ago, leaving the world of rock’n'roll to his fans. He has been living quietly since, raising a brood of alienated children all by different mothers. Ever the commitment-phobe, he is gradually realising that his latest relationship with the mother of his six year old kid Jackson won’t last either.
The release of the demo sessions from Crowe’s best album ‘Juliet’ as ‘Juliet, Naked’ that is the catalyst for change in all of their lives. Duncan raves about it, Annie hates it preferring the honed final version, and unusually for her she posts a review on the net and Tucker reads it and emails her. This schism is driving a wedge ever further between Duncan and Annie and when Duncan is unfaithful they split; anyway Annie is becoming rather entranced by her growing virtual relationship with Crowe, who will come into both their lives in reality soon…
Hornby’s big themes of lives wasted, mid-life crises, that families require work, and obsession are worked out in his characteristic fluent and witty style with some moments of pathos thrown in. He is sympathetic to all of them, yet doesn’t let them get away with it, they have to suffer the consequences of their actions. He knows them, understands their needs and obsessions (as I felt do I!), and this makes for an engaging and satisfying read with all ends tied up neatly. As a companion piece to the wonderful High Fidelity, if you liked that you’ll certainly enjoy Juliet, Naked which could be seen as the next chapters in the lives of Rob and Laura. The main characters here being that bit olde,r and needing to do that last bit of growing up with their mid-life crises, make this a wistful and bittersweet book which may be of less interest to bright young things, but will surely resonate with more mature music fans!
(8.5/10) I got given this book, but would have bought it anyway!
Unfortunately the last few pages really brought it down. I left feeling as though the characters were rather two-dimensional and like the ending was rather a cop-out.
Still worth reading, but maybe closing before the end?
Two random things that are influencing my enjoyment of the book. One: I put off reading this for quite a while since I used to date someone named Juliet and whenever I was looking for the next thing to read, the title seemed intrusive and creepy. I'm very happy that Juliet, Naked is the name of an album and not an undressed person. Second: Nick Hornby has a way of writing male characters that skewer many of my faults and things that I don't like about myself. He does it in a way that isn't shaming and helps me both laugh at myself and prods me to be a better person. It's a mitzvah and I'm grateful for his talent and work.
As for the book itself: I'm enjoying the hell out of the first half, but I'm having trouble separating the book itself from the headspace that it puts me in. I think that is a sign of a successful book, but it also means that my experience of reading it will vary greatly from the experience of anyone reading this review. It is a novel that promotes introspection and introspection isn't something that always translates between readers.
At the end of the book, I'm enormously satisfied. Nick Hornby is a bard to middle-aged men. He very successfully exposes significant flaws in all of his characters and has the grace to keep them somewhat sympathetic characters though the process. I do wonder if his female characters ring as true as his male characters do, but I think that he does interesting things w/ Annie's voice in the novel regardless.
The story moved to interesting places, the characters made signification progression as well, and the novel as a whole dealt with interesting and important themes. I think this was a huge success for Hornby.
"The truth about life was that nothing ever ended until you died, and even then you just left a whole bunch of unresolved narratives behind you"
I couldn't put this book down once I had a good chunk of time to devote to it. I was reading it over Thanksgiving and it was near impossible to get into it at first with all the travel and family and general madness. The next day I curled up with this book to be drawn into such a good story. I loved Annie! I found her to be such a multi-faceted character and thought she was very real. I found Duncan to be annoying and whiny but reminiscent of some of the crowd I used to hang out with in college. I will admit that I used to be a little bit pretentious in my music and film taste and scoff at others with "lesser" tastes so I could relate in some ways. Tucker was an interesting character for me and his relationship with his son was adorable. There was so much beneath the surface with him and at some points you wanted to hate him for his actions and failures but then you'd find other things about him that were so redeemable. I loved learning the truths about his life that Duncan and all his "Crowologists" got wrong. The little "love triangle" was pretty entertaining.
I was a little disappointed with the ending I will admit. I had to read it over a few times to try and figure out what happened because it was pretty vague and left open to interpretation. I think the thing that bugged me the most about it was that it seemed rushed towards the end so I just wasn't happy all around with the ending. Perhaps if it would have been built up differently I wouldn't have been so irked by an ambiguous ending.
My final thought: Read this if you are looking for a really wonderful novel that deals with the rumpled nature of real life that is emotional and yet quite funny in all the right ways. This book peers into life and the loneliness that can seep into our lives. I think it is also about second chances--giving your life a second chance despite how much you've screwed up or no matter how much time you've wasted on a relationship, a job, etc. etc. I think if you are a passionate music fan, like myself, you will love this for the passion that drives these characters and the fact that this really is a book about music and the people who make it and those who consume it. There is a quote that I just can't find at the moment that talks about this idea perfectly but it really made me think about how I interpret what I read and listen to versus the real meaning behind the art and how others interpret it.
That being said, the negatives of the novel are out of the way, and I can easily say Hornby has created a wonderful new story. All 400 pages were a delight to read and seemed even more introspective and philosophical than his other novels, while retaining an entertaining element that made the book difficult to put down. He explores the depths of his characters' thoughts and emotions and ponders them in a way akin to a Tom Robbins novel. Hornby examines the movement into middle-age and what that means for a person in terms of growth and dealing with regrets. He wraps it in an arts-focused package that most readers can relate to.
Nick Hornby moves himself further into the realm of great modern novelist with Juliet, Naked. The profound ideas and contemplation of life today is wonderful to read.
I suppose really what it’s about is wasting time, as we see the rocker (Tucker Crowe) rue the decades spent in sweatpants watching daytime TV and drinking, the silliness of his rabid fans dissecting every aspect of his albums and interviews, speculating wildly about him, and making pilgrimages to places in his life, while not having enough of one of their own, and a woman (Annie) whose been living in an unsatisfying relationship with one of these fans for 15 years, despite her desire for ‘more’, including children.
It’s also about the dangers of obsession, but at the bottom of it all, there is a sympathy expressed to the foibles of hardcore music fans, and to those falling in love. Annie strikes up an improbable correspondence with Tucker Crowe, and I love this line that describes what it progresses to: “She didn’t know who or what she had fallen in love with, but she was as lost and dreamy and helpless as she’d ever been in her entire life.”
Easy reading, not incredibly deep, but you could do worse.
I shouldn't have to say it--this is a Nick Hornby book, and there are certain qualities one comes to expect from this man's writing--the characters are well-constructed, multi-dimensional, and easy to sympathize with and understand even when one disagrees with their decisions. The novel is touching but not cheesy or overly "Hollywood"/"chick-flick." I'd call it a perfect rainy day read--engaging, well-paced, and with a satisfying (yet open enough for contemplation and discussion) ending.
I've already got a list of friends I'm planning to loan this book to, posthaste.
So when another book club I’m in also suggested a Nick Hornby book (Juliet Naked) I was really looking forward to it and I wasn’t disappointed. There’s the same humour (note the email conversations and online chat forum excerpts that end each chapter, he manages to exactly capture the funnier aspects and crazed dynamics of the message boards with several strangers trying to argue that their opinion is the better one, that they know more about an obscure singer-songwriter than the next person and then the non-fan coming in and rubbishing their views claiming that the singer he prefers is far superior …) and the same depth to the characters that make you believe in them. The title refers to a new, stripped down, acoustic album of demo versions of songs by a singer-songwriter (Tucker Crowe) from his most famous album called “Juliet” that has recently been released. It’s the first new material from Tucker in about 20 years and no-one has seen or heard from him in all this time; Duncan, the founder of the Tucker Crowe fanclub website (his fans, mainly middle aged men, like to refer to themselves as Crowologists), is the first to receive it and rushes to be the first to write a (very) enthusiastic review of it while his long suffering partner Annie who has had to put up with Duncan’s obsession for all things Tucker (when Annie observes that she has long accepted the Crowe thing as "part of the package, like a disability", you know all you need to know about life with Duncan) disagrees and also puts up a review of the album expressing her differing view of it. This then leads to Tucker (reclusive for two decades) contacting Annie to agree with her disparaging views (stick with me here … unlikely I know but at no point do you ever put down the book thinking; “yeah … as if!!”). A friendship then develops between Annie and Tucker over emails and at this time we are introduced to Tucker (nothing at all like the picture Duncan has portrayed, no doubt this is what Nick Hornby had in mind, showing us that our idols are not as we think of them but just as real and with the same problems as ourselves) and his extended family of famous ex-models, ex-wives and step-children and the truth behind the myth that has developed surrounding Tucker from Duncan and the other Crowologists. This is very well done and we can see exactly how the larger-than-life legends have developed, what Tucker thinks of them (and also of the people claiming that these are facts!) and the truth behind them. In fact at this point I can do no better than steal a sentence from another review which perfectly captures the book; “ The book’s likably bleak humour lies mostly in Hornby's pitch-perfect examination of male fandom … and the way in which the web has enabled fans to stalk and even, somehow, take possession of their idols from the safety of darkened bedrooms.” When Tucker inevitably comes across to England to visit Annie after Duncan leaves her following an affair at work there seems no way of proving to Duncan that this is in fact Tucker Crowe the person he has idolised all his life because as they say he knows more about Tucker than Tucker himself!
By the end of the book what happens to the characters is left beautifully unclear, we are not let down with a sickly sweet soppy ending where Annie and Tucker go off into the sunset hand in hand and Duncan is happier and far more content for having met his idol but instead we are left with the possibilities of this happening. Annie discusses at the end with her therapist (a sort of physical voice-in-her-head character used to show us what she is thinking and feeling) all the options available to her - staying in Goolness (a fictional and dismal north eastern seaside town well past its heyday) or going to America to start a new life, possibly with Tucker or possibly without. Because of the events in the books everyone seems to have come out better and stronger with both Duncan and Annie happier (the former in his own way and the latter with seemingly impossible-to-conceive-before avenues open to her now, for example the idea of moving out of Goolness) and Tucker as well has been touched and come to terms with his semi-celebrity status and fans and releases a new album of new material which is discussed on Nick Hornby’s fictional online chat forum at the end in one of the books funnier moments … I’ll not spoil it for you but I do hope you read this yourself to find out … highly recommended.
When Julient, Naked, actually the stripped down demo version of the prior album is issued, Annie decides to write a review on Duncan's blog. Of course, her opinion is diametrically opposed to his. Not only that, he makes her feel stupid when she disagrees with him. Thus, her doubts about their relationship begin to grow.
How astonished is she when she receives an e-mail from Tucker Crowe himself, thanking her for her honest opinion and agreeing with her. Thus begins an e-mail correspondence that ends with them meeting.
Both Annie and Tucker have a lot in common. They are both mournful of their lost years, Annie's spent with Duncan and his obsession, and Tucker's wasted with no music making, no work, much of the time drunk, failed relationships. Who of us has not wondered where the years went and what we have to show for it. There are some funny and some sad moments and the ending, well, you figure that out.
My criticism was that the book was longer than necessary. A lopped off 50 pages would have reduced some of the repetition. Having said that, I did want to see how it ended and I did enjoy it. If you're a Hornby fan, I"m sure you'll enjoy it. If you haven't read Hornby, I'd certainly give it a try. I'd be tempted to read another one of his books.
I absolutely loved the story and how all the characters had growth and depth (at least Annie and Tucker). Annie is always second guessing herself, over analytical and self conscious. Tucker Crowe is so much of a mystery until you learn that his facade is entirely produced by speculation and that he's actually mundane, messed up and lost like everyone else. Duncan is definitely the most predictable of the three characters with not very much growth but I feel he played a vital role in connecting Annie to Tucker.
The only complaint I have is the ending. It's suspended mid air and it makes me feel uneasy. Hornby let's you determine the ending but I felt he took the easy way out.
I do recommend it if you don't mind the ending.
I thought Annie was particularly believable, and I liked the way Hornby explored everyone's motivation. I also enjoyed his whimsical sense of humor. My one complaint was a slightly ambiguous ending.
Juliet, Naked started off really good. After reading a couple of pages, I had high hopes, but it quickly got absurd and boring. The core of the book was not believable, a washed up famous musician starts up a relationship with a women who wrote a review on his demo called Juliet, Naked. Throughout the book I was confused about what they were getting from this interaction between both of them, and what they wanted from it.
The characters were not at all appealing, which surprised me, since I was excited to read about a ex famous musician. I thought his character at least had so much potential to be great. I guess because I didn't find the characters appealing, it got harder and harder to finish the book. It was just boring to me.
Nick Hornby's writing is tantalizing, no matter what he is writing about, it's hip and fresh. He definitely writes for the cool clique, and this time I wasn't in it. At times I felt like I was watching a bad episode of VH1's Behind the Music.
Juliet, Naked is not a good book, in my opinion, but nevertheless, Nick Hornby's words were as usual, chic. The writing was there, it's just the story was missing.
This novel has a lot of the same themes of Hornby's other works - music, geeky obsessions, muddled relationships, parenting, and recognizing one's own mortality. I really couldn't get into to at first because the characters were annoying me especially since they kept talking about a fictional musician. 80 pages in, when Tucker finally appears, I started to warm up to it. For all his flaws, I like Tucker for his relationship with his young son (albeit if that son doesn't seem to act 6 years old). But then the book just falls apart with far too many unlikely happenings and the characters not responding in a real way but more like sitcom characters.
Yes, I'm harsh on this book. It is an entertaining, quality brain candy read. On the other hand I know Hornby is capable of much better.
The common thread among Hornby's books is the idea that others explain our worlds much more fully and aptly than we are able to ourselves. Media and celebrity give us a common reference that allows us to communicate thoughts through others. In High Fidelity, this was exemplified by the mix tape. In Juliet, Naked, it's exemplified by a self-selecting community of fans expressing their shared passion for one forgotten man's art. Rob Gordon expresses himself through mix tapes; Duncan expresses himself through an idolatry of celebrity. Music illuminates emotions and situations that these men cannot find expression for through their own art.
What is different, though, is that Hornby has written a highly believable, highly relatable female character that shares the stage with Hornby's bread and butter aimless male characters. The prose is tight, the characters engaging, and the style classic Hornby.
The only negative is that the end comes too quickly, is largely implied, and is a bit too neatly wrapped. Definitely worth your time.
In this book, we meet Annie who lives in a dreary little seaside town in England and lives with Duncan, her boyfriend of 15 years. Duncan is obsessed with the American singer Tucker Crowe who had a few hits in the 80s then suddenly gave up music and disappeared from the public eye. He even drags Annie on a trip through America, hitting up all of the famous "landmarks" related to Tucker's life and career. But when Tucker releases a stripped down demo version of his most popular album "Juliet," Duncan and Annie find they differ in their opinion of the music. Duncan thinks it's genius. Juliet appreciates it for what it represents but ultimately thinks it's crap. This disagreement drives a wedge between them and they both begin to rethink their relationship, with Annie realizing she had merely settled. The two post their reviews online and think that's the end of it. But then one day, Annie receives an email from Tucker Crowe - the man himself - and the two begin to correspond and eventually, decide to meet.
The friendship between Annie and Tucker is beautifully crafted (if not entirely plausible) and through their conversations we feel their despair, regret, and loneliness. As a reader, you never really feel hopefully for any of the characters yet you can't help but sympathize with their journey and enjoy each step they take towards (or away) from one another.
I highly recommend this to any Nick Hornby fans and to anyone who maybe still holds on to a bit of nostalgia from their youth in the hopes of retaining the happiness we felt when we were with it. This is also a good introduction to anyone who hasn't read Hornby in the past.
This book was a perfect Hornby novel to me. It deals with music and troubled adult relationships, which are, in my opinion, Hornby's two greatest strengths when it comes to subject matter.
He writes from the point-of-view of all three characters, making the story even richer. They deal with feelings of failure, hope, and thoughts that they've wasted their lives. The books just rang true somehow. Hornby has a way of saying things we all think in a way that makes them seem profound. Juliet, Naked has its flaws, but I would rank it as one of his best.
Duncan has long been obsessed with Tucker Crowe, a musician who created the "perfect" album (in Duncan's opinion) and then vanished into obscurity. Duncan devotes much of his time to analysis of Tucker's work and to an on-line chat group devoted to the man.
Annie's biological clock is ticking, and while, intellectually, she realizes this will pass, she has started to examine her relationship with Duncan. Their disagreement over a newly discovered and released demo of Tucker's great album, Juliet (hence called Juliet, Naked) symbolizes the the larger divergence in their relationship.
Annie posts a review of Tucker's work, and he contacts her. A bit far fetched, but this is fiction.
So, Tucker's perspective comes into the story. He, too, is getting older and a third divorce, coupled with a mild heart attack, start him examining the choices he's made.
Nick Hornby is an excellent writer whose characters, while a bit quirky, always ring true. The plot appears simple, but the real story is the growth and development of the main characters.
(p.s. and I loved the Northern "break dancers"!)