Goodreads description: Annie loves Duncan — or thinks she does. Duncan loves Annie, but then, all of a sudden, he doesn’t. Duncan really loves Tucker Crowe, a reclusive Dylanish singer-songwriter who stopped making music ten years ago. Annie stops loving Duncan, and starts getting her own life.
In doing so, she initiates an e-mail correspondence with Tucker, and a connection is forged between two lonely people who are looking for more out of what they’ve got. Tucker’s been languishing (and he’s unnervingly aware of it), living in rural Pennsylvania with what he sees as his one hope for redemption amid a life of emotional and artistic ruin-his young son, Jackson. But then there’s also the new material he’s about to release to the world: an acoustic, stripped-down version of his greatest album, Juliet — entitled, Juliet, Naked.
What happens when a washed-up musician looks for another chance? And miles away, a restless, childless woman looks for a change? Juliet, Naked is a powerfully engrossing, humblingly humorous novel about music, love, loneliness, and the struggle to live up to one’s promise.
So, I had absolutely no idea what Juliet, Naked was about when I picked it out. I have heard generally positive things about Nick Hornby’s work and this book. I was browsing the shelves and picked it up. The spine was pretty and colorful! I did skim the jacket, and it wasn’t what I expected at all.
Juliet, Naked was hard for me to put down! I wasn’t even sure I was enjoying it, but I couldn’t set it down for long. It isn’t unusual for me to pick up my book if my computer is taking too long to load or something, and with this book, I couldn’t focus on much else. It wasn’t really that I loved it or was enthusiastically wanting to know what happened next, I just had that itchy feeling where I needed to keep reading. I read it all in one day, on Labor Day actually (my reviews are really backed up, in case you couldn’t tell).
Juliet, Naked is not a story about anyone named Juliet! If you read the description, you know that, but I don’t always read descriptions so I thought I’d mention it! Tucker Crowe was a semi-popular musician in the past (I can’t remember the years, I think early 90’s) and Juliet was an album and claim to fame. He mysteriously quit playing and making music in the middle of a tour, which led to a lot of questions among diehard fans. Duncan is a diehard fan. He is active on a website dedicated to Tucker. He, along with Annie (his partner/girlfriend), even went on a tour of places that were “meaningful” to Tucker Crowe fans. When a new, stripped version of Juliet is released, Duncan is obsessed and thinks it’s better than the original. Annie disagrees, which causes a huge row between Annie and Duncan, and leads her to contact with Tucker himself.
The book is told in the third person, and it’s mainly Annie and Tucker, with some Duncan. For me, it was the Annie show, she was definitely my favorite character. She and Duncan are in a relationship of convenience. He was always more interested in a retired musician than Annie. Annie works at a small museum in a small English town. She expected more from life and isn’t really sure how she ended up in the middle of this weird relationship with a huge focus on Tucker Crowe. Duncan is ridiculous and a bit pathetic. I was continuously frustrated with him, and I wanted to push Annie away from him! I think the description is really misleading because I’m pretty sure they mention how they weren’t really in love, they just had the kind of love that came from being with each other. They never had passion for each other.
Duncan and Annie’s relationship is just sad. I couldn’t really feel anything for Duncan. Annie wanted things like a family, which are not aligned with what I want at all, but I definitely empathized with her. Duncan more or less scorned her opinion about music and then treated her pretty badly. When Annie “meets” and starts emailing with Tucker, it’s something different and exciting. Plus, she knows it would drive Duncan crazy. She has some appreciation for Tucker as a musician, but she starts to actually get to know him and like him as a person.
Tucker was really fascinating. He was never a huge star, but people knew him. He had some fame. Once he stopped making music, he had to reevaluate a lot of his life. He’s in his fifties, and he’s attempting to cope with getting older. He has a lot of family issues. He lives with one of his sons, but he has a few other children, all from different mothers. He has to address his mortality and creativity. He shuns his past and doesn’t like diehard fans that spend a lot of time focused on him. When the new version comes out, he’s happily surprised to see someone call it like it is and responds to the review, which happens to be Annie’s.
I’m not really sure I get this book. I feel like some of it went over my head, and I didn’t really want to hash it out. I think it touches on figuring out how to be happy with your life when it isn’t what you expected. All three of the main characters go through pretty large changes in their life and have to adapt in ways they never really expected. I think that was interesting. There was some scrambling, along with some hits and misses. I was more or less happy (it was going to be 3 stars) with the book until the end, when something really weird happens. I’m not sure what the general take on this move is, but it was ridiculous in my opinion, and made me question Hornby’s writing and how much he cared about a certain character.
Juliet, Naked is a tough book for me to review. It was a quick read, but I’m not sure it was for me. I was disappointed by the characters and the ending. I wouldn’t read it again, but I am interested in reading more of Nick Hornby’s work. I think it might appeal to some readers, and maybe the big problem I had with it wouldn’t bother everyone. If you like challenging characters coming to terms with reality, characters making big life changes, and music related books, Juliet, Naked might be the book for you!
Check out Nick Hornby’s website!