Now, don’t get me wrong, I love Nick Hornby. About A Boy is one of my ultimate favourites (book and film) but Juliet, Naked seems to have missed the spot. It was a well written book, but lacked that sparkle I was expecting and hoping for.
The novel focuses on Duncan, Annie and Tucker. Duncan is an obsessive music fan who receives a CD of ‘Juliet, Naked’ by his all time favourite artist, Tucker Crowe. Annie, Duncan’s girlfriend listens to the CD first and expresses immediate dislike for it. Duncan posts a raving review on his fan site, and Annie posts her own opinions. Tucker contacts Annie and the novel starts to unravel from here.
Tucker has been a bit of a player and has 5 children, from 4 different relationships. The youngest, Jackson, is the only child he sees. Lizzie prepares to visit her father because she was pregnant. There’s always a feeling of disappointment regarding Lizzie and Tucker. It’s a fair statement that he is not a consistent father figure. I found it quite hard to relate to Tucker because of this.
Meanwhile, Duncan meets a new work colleague called Gina. They have sex, thus making Duncan a cheater. He talks to Annie the next day and confesses. She kicks him out. Something that should be brimming with emotion, I personally think felt a bit blah. I didn’t feel like that there was any emotion. The narrative remained flat. I didn’t feel anything when I know I should have.
This lack of feeling continued when it was revealed that Lizzie lost her baby. Such an emotive issue could have been developed more to get a reaction from the reader. Tucker flies to London from America to see her, but ends up having a heart attack. This means he couldn’t meet Annie, but this is quickly resolved. Awkwardness then follows as Lizzie invites all his children and ex-wives to visit for a family reunion.
The sub-plot running through the novel surrounds Tucker’s daughter Grace. Hornby reveals why Tucker famously ended his career and vanished for years. Grace is that reason. Tucker hasn’t met her at this point in the story. Again the blasé treatment of a dad who has essentially abandoned all but one of his children is rather frustrating.
Annie visits him in hospital and Tucker, to dodge the family reunion of all his ex partners and children, they go to Gooleness. I did enjoy the links and descriptions of the North. These did feel rather realistic. They discuss his music; Tucker sees it as inauthentic rubbish, whilst Annie thinks it’s deep and meaningful. She admits she was in a relationship for Duncan, who Tucker knows from the fan website. Eventually they meet (after an awkward encounter where Duncan doesn’t believe who he is).
Back to the sub plot… Grace calls Tucker. Amazingly (I really don’t understand how or why) she says she understands how he and she can’t be close because it would mean giving up ‘Juliet’. Again I found this quite frustrating. I just don’t get how she could be so accepting. Maybe because she’s never really had him around?
Annie admits she has feelings for Tucker and they end up having sex. She says she’s used a contraceptive, but that is a lie. The lack of children from her 15 year relationship with Duncan is clearly chipping away at her. Tucker and Jackson return to America. Annie wants to sell her house and join them.
The hardcore fans of the Tucker website receive a new release from Tucker, which they all hate. Only one member shays she and her husband like it, compared to Juliet, Naked, which they found too gloomy.
I feel like I’ve been harsh here. Don’t get me wrong, there’s something about Hornby’s ability as a writer. They are addictive. You can’t not read them. I have read 3 Hornby books in the past few months! They flow, they are easy and quick to read. I just couldn’t connect with any characters here. I was looking for more emotion, for something I could relate to. I’ve never been a hardcore follower of music, so I couldn’t really relate to that theme either. I’m willing to accept that it’s me. But, this book just didn’t really do it for me.