1 Mar 2012

Review: "Juliet, Naked" by Nick Hornby

Do you know those books that have been on your radar forever but that you never get around to actually reading? "Juliet, Naked" by Nick Hornby was one of those books that I have been aware of and kind of wanted to read for years. Then the other day at the second-hand book shop, they had a buy-1-get-1-free offer and I picked it up as the free option. I had anticipated that it would be on the shelf unread for ages but then suddenly I felt that NEED to read it now.

"Juliet, Naked" is a typical Hornby novel in that it deals with the topic of obsession. Anni is an English graduate working as a museum curator in Gooleness, an English seaside town. She lives with her partner of fifteen years, college teacher Duncan and she is the second-most important person in his life. The most important is Tucker Crowe. A Leonard Cohen/Bruce Springsteen kind of singer who had a massive hit with the record "Juliet" and who vanished mysteriously twenty years ago. Duncan is one of a small group of fans (very small, twenty or so people) who obsess about Crowe and his music. Meeting in online forums, they write essays, discuss and interpret lyrics and post pictures from visits to his home town and other "important Crowe locations". Living with a dedicated Crowologist is taking its toll on Anni who is worried that she has spent the last fifteen years in a boring town in a boring job with a boring man.
The something happens that shakes up the world of Duncan - a new Crowe album is released, "Juliet, Naked" and Duncan is the first to get his hands on it. Excited and smug, he reviews it. But so - in a fit of sheer annoyance with Duncan - does Anni. And someone claiming to be THE Tucker Crowe responds to her reivew.

As with all of the other Hornby novels I have read, obsession is fuel that makes the wheels turn in Ducan's life and for years, Anni just goes along with it. Then suddenly she realised that she is too old to ever have the child she so dearly wishes and her insistence that there must be more to life drives the plot. I understand her so well, I find it hard to imagine anything much worse than spending a winter in Gooleness with a man like Duncan. He is so self-absorbed in his adoration of all things Crowe that I found it impossible not to dislike him while at the same time enjoying reading about him being a jerk.
Anni is likeable on the other hands and I was rooting for her.

The angst and the mid-life "is that all there is?" crisis was mildly worrying, I never want that to be me! But at the same time it functioned very well as a reminder to live life every day and to make choices that make every day a better day.
In typical Hornby style, the story has amazingly funny bits. It features the worst most judgmental therapist I have ever come across in a novel and Duncan is wonderfully incapable of any self-reflection.  Anni is slightly neurotic and her worries about mid-life-crisis-sex are hilarious as are the two Gooleness legends Gav and Barnesy. Tucker Crowe is a good character though not as well-developed as Anni and Duncan - though he reminded me a bit of Judas Coyne from "The Heart-Shaped Box" by Joe Hill.
All in all a good, slightly neurotic and fun read that I will re-read.

Read it if: You have a cup of tea and need a good, warm read to go along with it. If you need to remind yourself why it is better to be single than to be with the wrong person.


  1. I enjoyed this books--I actually listened to the audio version. Love Hornby's humor and human/relationship insights.

  2. I know exactly what you mean - this one does is also one of my "satellite books". How did you find his portrayal of a female character? I think he did a pretty good just with A Long Way Down, but I know it's not the general view.

  3. I really like Hornby and own this one but haven't read it. Sounds like I need to rectify this situation!

  4. I love your review, it captures the sweet and the quirkiness of the book. I have also reviewed this book here, so if you have a minute I'd love you to check it out