So I finished the latest Nick Hornby book after the guys left on Friday. I quite enjoyed it.
Nick Hornby writes books about petty, selfish, obsessive men that seem stuck in a perpetual childhood. And they are generally funny. If you’ve never read any of his books, you might have seen a couple of them adapted into the movies About a Boy and High Fidelity.
Juliet, Naked flips it around and tells the story of two typical Hornby men from the POV of a woman. Annie is living common-law with Duncan for the past 15 years. Duncan is obsessed with the work and mythology of an American artist named Tucker Crowe especially his final work before retiring and disappearing Juliet.
When a new version of Juliet is released based on early demos and called Juliet, Naked a tipping point in Annie and Duncan’s relationship is reached. I don’t want to spoil the story, but Tucker Crowe himself is introduced as a 3rd main character.
I have a problem with the novel. It seems as though someone went to Hornby and said, “Great books. Interesting culture and well written men. Very funny. But your women are underwritten.” Hornby’s response is to make the primary POV in Juliet, Naked a women. Unfortunately it only seems to highlight the underling issue. Tucker and Duncan sparkle with life and their eccentricities. Annie just seems weighted down by the world around her.
That being the case it is still a funny book. Hornby investigates small English seaside towns, nostalgia, internet fandom and the normalcy of life after being a semi-famous rock star. It moves between its various interests and weaves them into a non-standard relationship drama’ish thing.
An example of the humour: Annie is trying to organize an exhibit for her museum of the summer of 1964. To all accounts it was a great summer with some notable features like a successful fair, a summer concert and a large shark displayed on the boardwalk. But the only pictures and artifacts Annie can find are grotesque shots of the shark with a diseased hole in its side while children with ice cream pose beside it.
The underlying question of the novel being, “Was it ever as good as my memories make it out to be?”
I’d recommend Juliet, Naked to any Hornby fans. To others, I’d say start somewhere else – A Long Way Down might be my favorite.