Lilliputian Review: Juliet, Naked

From the Publisher: 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.

My Take: Strangely, About a Boy didn't do it for me (guess I'm not in love with books centring around egomaniacal child-men) but I really fell hard for Juliet, Naked. In Annie, Hornby has finally produced a fully developed female character who's not just out to break hearts. I think women will relate to Annie, someone who's coasted through life by doing what's easiest - staying in a dreary but familiar small town with the same guy she's dated for over a decade. Many of us can relate to these lost months, years, even decades. What Annie realizes (and Tucker too, whose story is a nice counterpart to Annie's) is that there is no reclaiming that time, that one has to move on and accept that while we've been shaped by that experience, it's not the only one we're possible of having.

Juliet, Naked focuses on the negative shapes of our experiences - the album, Juliet, Naked, is the negative to the finished album, Duncan is the negative to what Annie is really looking for in a partner and Annie's lost years are the negative to what she can become if she will just let herself live. Juliet, Naked is also a book about wanting, something Annie and Tucker have desperately tried to repress, and the total joy waiting when one capitulates utterly to it.

Not only is Juliet, Naked a great rock and roll story but it also rocks as a story about the redemptive power of creative and romantic desire.

Juliet, Naked / Nick Hornby / Riverhead Books / HC, 2009

Excerpt from Chapter One


Pete said...

I'm a big fan of Hornby, and thought that his first genuine, fully-developed female character was Maureen in A Long Way Down, who was also the best character in that book. Looking forward to this latest of his.

B.Kienapple said...

Pete - I confess I have not read A Long Way Down! My judgment was based solely on my impressions of High Fidelity and About a Boy. My bad. Anyway, do hope you enjoy Juliet, Naked.


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