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I have been an admirer of Nick Hornby as an author for many years since I read his début novel 'High Fidelity'. Since then I have tried most of his other works in fiction or non-fiction. Although I was very pleased to find this book at my local charity shop last week and I knew at just a pound I should reacquaint myself with his work. This piece of fiction was written in 2009.
==Synopsis of the book:==
For the last twenty plus years Duncan has idolised the singer songwriter Tucker Crowe. His interest in this man has arguably been enhanced by the man's disappearance from the music scene in the 1980's. Nothing has really been heard from this man since then. Duncan and his fellow enthusiasts have a web site in his honour where they communicate and information or gossip they can gleam about their hero. As there are many stories as to why this cult star disappeared so mysteriously from the music scene and seemingly from society as well.
Duncan and his long term partner Annie decide to visit Tucker's home in America, to see this previously troubled stars last venue where he performed and his ex-girlfriend Juliet's home. As according to myth his last album was all about their troubled relationship. Upon returning home from this pilgrimage Duncan has been sent a CD of previously unreleased Tucker material from his last tour in the 1980's, a no holes, live set called 'Juliet Naked'. However to Duncan's complete disgust Annie has opened his post and is listening to it when he returns home from work. Annie having been with Duncan for the past 15 years, does not share his obsession with Tucker and is bold enough to criticise this exciting 'new' piece of work, can their relationship survive this act of ultimate betrayal in Duncan's eyes?
==My thoughts on this novel:==
For me this was a disappointing piece of fiction and one I did not particularly enjoy. However there where several factors I thought where good while others did not impress me. Maybe as I had enjoyed all this authors previous works my expectation was too high but for me this still doesn't explain my overall conclusion of it.
When I first spotted this book I was very excited and knew without even reading its summary that I must purchase it. I wondered what the author meant by the title of it and I was impressed when I found out because as a title it was exactly right for this story. Although I was disappointed with the quote on the front cover and those that dawned the back cover as they complimented his work in general rather than this book specifically.
It was not until I got the book home I read the summary of the story. I have to say I liked this and it really appealed to me this idea of this obsession Duncan had with this unusual and now reclusive singer songwriter. I liked the concept of Annie and Duncan falling out over this album that his record company put together believing this opening up interesting ideas without giving too much of what was to follow.
The story started with Annie and Duncan's visit to America to see Tucker's homeland. I must admit I found this a little dull as it was dealing with Duncan's obsession and I found this quite difficult to understand and relate to. And I understood why Annie wanted to see the sites while on holiday rather than the home of Tucker's ex-girlfriend's house. I just felt if this story was going to continue with this obsession of Duncan's I might struggle to enjoy it.
So I was pleased when this new material was sent to Duncan and this caused a rift in his relationship with Annie. As this added spice to the story and the author was very good at explaining how they both felt about this. For me Duncan's reaction with in keeping with a manic fan, and his feelings of betrayal when Annie had the cheek to criticise his hero was quite amusing. Although I wondered at this point where the story was headed and hoped it would not just be about Duncan's hero worshipping this man.
And I was impressed with the direction it took, because it was different to what I had expected and a clever twist. I thought the author had a really good idea here and while I didn't always find everything in the story either likely or believable, I did enjoy the this twist and how he developed the idea. Although at the same time I thought it was a bit simplistic and easy and more depth and a few more twists would have livened things up for me.
While I did not really enjoy the story and how it ultimately developed what I did enjoy was the humour and wit that accompanied it. Some of it had me chuckling and because it was well described it allowed your to picture and fully appreciate how funny it was. I have always found Hornby's humour to be clever and intelligently written. For me this is one of the best features about his work because he seems to have a fresh and new insight that I always enjoy.
For me the concluding chapters where the most disappointing of the whole book. As up to this point the story had been well paced, if slightly predictable. I thought the story was wound up far too quickly. I would have like more explanation and more depth about the characters feelings because for me I got the impression it was rushed. Added to which I thought this story cried out for an epilogue as for me it left far too much open and not concluded.
While the story did overall disappoint me the characters within it impressed me. I thought the author created ones that it was easy to understand and relate to, even if the majority of them differed from the norm. Through intelligent and clever writing it was easy to understand for example Duncan's obsession with Tucker and everything relating to him and Annie's frustration with their relationship.
Indeed it was quite often the interplay between these and one additional main character that I enjoyed most. As I felt the author really understood and demonstrated their characteristics and personality throughout the story. With the small part that Jackson had a master stoke as he always injected humour into some serious and tense situations as I result I always enjoyed the scenes he was involved in.
For me this was a disappointing piece of fiction and one I would not recommend. I thought the concepts behind the story where all excellent but overall the story was quite predictable and needed more twists in it. Added to which I found the ending of the story poor and it needed to be longer with more answers to the story as little for me was resolved and too much left open to interpretation. Although I did enjoy the characters the author created and the humour that punctuated the story which I found very clever.
Price: 4.43 New at Amazon
Year first Published: 2009
About the author: www.nickhornby.net
Thanks for reading my review.
This review is published on both Dooyoo and Ciao under my user name.
© CPTDANIELS February 2012.
Juliette Naked by Nick Hornby
I picked this book up in Tesco as part of their 2 for £7 deal. I think this was probably my second book to make up the two. I do enjoy Nick Hornby's books as I find that they are an easy read and each one is quite different from the other, by this I mean he doesn't follow a formula like some popular authors.
The story starts in a toilet. Yes you did read that correctly and our hero is having his photo taken by the heroine in this toilet. Apparently slightly obsessive Duncan had heard that his music idol had made a life changing decision in this very toilet. He wanted his partner Annie to take a photo of him in the very toilet where Tucker Crowe decided to never write music or ever sing again.
Duncan was obsessed with Tucker Crowe and every day spent time on his Tucker Crowe fan web site, he owned all his records even the most obscure ones. Over the years he had enthused so much that his partner Annie had had to become interested in his music too hence their pilgrimage to America to visit places of particular importance to a Tucker Crowe fan.
Duncan and Annie were not exactly a match made in heaven they sort of ended up together as their group of friends paired up and they stayed together out of convenience and laziness rather than any real passion. The thing I like about Hornby's books is the way he captures trivia and his descriptions of the couple's lives dome so casually yet I could really 'see' their apartment/ house and the way they spent their time etc.
They lived in the sleepy northern seaside town of Gooleness (can't you just picture it with a name like that?) and Annie worked in the museum and has been given the task of creating a display about the town in a bygone year when the most exciting thing that happened was that a dead shark was found of the beach. She is struggling as she has only had a jam jar containing the shark's eye looking a little less than fresh as a contrib. So far. It is these odd quirky details that bring the novel to life I think.
I have read a few other Nick Hornby books over the years and it is the rather droll humour that appeals. If you analyse the novel not a lot really happens but by the end of the novel you have a very vivid picture of not only the characters but also what sort of clothes they might wear and the places that they live. These are not ever described in detail in an obvious way but passing comments and the character's reaction to the way things happen all help to build this picture.
All of the books I have read by Hornby have been a bit off beat, with quirky and often as is the case here, slightly nerdy characters.
Duncan's obsession with Tucker Crowe is as nerdy as you can get. I can just see him on the computer checking his fan site sitting in his jeans and cardigan every night while Annie sits downstairs reading or watching TV. He then updates her on the latest bit of gossip going around the site while she nods pretending to be interested.
After they return from the holiday in America seeing various Tucker-related locations a new album by Tucker Crowe is released. Except this is not a new album, just an old one being re-released but in its raw state, prior to being tarted up in the studio. The album is called 'Juliet Naked' and the original album is the great Tucker Crowe's most popular 'Juliet'.
Somehow Ducan gets a copy of this and is desperate to get his point of view onto the fan website before anyone else. He raves about this album and thinks Annie is a complete idiot as she thinks it is a poor version of the original. He is so condescending that I would have slapped him but Annie is so incensed at his reaction to her opinion she decides to write a review on his fan site herself.
Unknown to Duncan Annie gets a personal response from the great Tucker Crowe himself totally agreeing with her. Duncan is so upset by the whole thing that he finds another poor unsuspecting person to share his views with and starts an affair. Annie and he split up reasonably amicably and the story develops.
Annie begins an email relationship with |Tucker and he enlightens her as to what his life really is like and dispels most of the myths spread around on the fan website. They talk about day to day things rather than his music. She talks to him as a friend rather than an obsessed fan.
There are minor character who are equally entertaining and help build this picture of Gooleness and all the excitements of this rather boring little town. The local dance night is just brilliant and takes me back to 'discos' in our local town years ago. The characterisation of all of these slightly odd people, is perfect and totally believable.
The internet fan group is something that you can fully believe if you think of the rumours started on 'Twitter' etc.The fact that most of the 'facts' on the fan site are only stories and not at all true makes the story all the more interesting and believable. The difference between the imaginings of this Tucker-obsessed group, and what is actually the reality of Tucker, the man is just so possible. Just think of all the celebrity rumours that are published in the newspapers today and how they get bigger and better they more people talk about it.
As Annie discovers Tucker is very normal and his life is both more normal and far more complicated than any of the site's stories make out and very little of the stuff on the site is true it turns out. I won't go into any more detail for fear of spoiling the story; although what actually happens in the book is largely a side issue to the character's conversations and experiences.
The novel is largely about relationships. Hornby does an excellent job with both the characters and the scene setting as the descriptions of places really make the story seem real. The actual story was not predictable and you don't get the typical happy ever after tidy ending. What you do get is a very amusing story with very real somewhat odd characters. I can't say I laughed out loud but I seldom do when reading but I certainly had a little chuckle and read with enthusiasm and a smile throughout. It is not a funny one-liner sort of read it is more ridiculous behavior and odd situations that make you smile. If you enjoyed 'About A Boy' then the humour is similar.
What I do like about Hornby's novels is that while you are laughing at the characters you still feel empathy for them. They are weird but they are human; although having said that Duncan may be the exception! There are some truly ridiculous things that happen and the characters are very off beat to say the least and this does add to the enjoyment of the book.
This is not a deep meaningful book but it is an excellent look at relationships and the way people behave. My cousin is so like the odd Duncan that it is uncanny so that is maybe why I picture him that way. This cousin if six years younger than me but an old man already and Duncan reminded me so much of him.
If you have read other books by Nick Hornby and enjoy his rather understated humour then give this one a try. You can get it from Amazon for 1p plus postage which is less than I paid at Tesco. This is a book for anyone that enjoys books with interesting and somewhat unusual characters and understated quirky humour. It won't take you long to read as it is only about 250 pages and I read it in a couple of nights.
Thanks for reading. This review may be posted on other sites under my same user name.
This is a review of the 2009 book Juliet, Naked by Nick Hornby. I've always enjoyed reading books by this author so was expecting good things from this book.
A little on the storyline
The book follows Duncan and Annie as their relationship is going down the pan for several reasons, the main one being Duncan's obsession with an 80s pop star singer songwriter Tucker Crowe (who hasn't made any new music for more than20 years). A tour of America makes Annie realise their relationship has wasted her fertile years with no child to show for it. On their return, Duncan's infidelity with a work colleague puts the final nail in the coffin and they both part on amicable grounds. Annie begins an online relationship with none other than Tucker and that's where it starts to get complicated...
What I liked
I loved the way Hornby explores fanatical fans and their obsessive behaviour over their idol. He makes a good demonstration through the internet of how a small base of 15 people spread over the world can join together and feed their obsession. Duncan and his online friends make up a whole world around rumours of Tucker and get so much into it that they believe it is all true.
I've never been such a crazy fan of anyone famous but I can see that it does happen and that people will clutch at the slightest glimpse of 'exclusive' information they may glean on their chosen obsession. In the book, when Duncan gets a sneak preview of Tucker's new album he quickly chooses to rub the other fan's noses in the fact that he listened to it first, before them. He later revisits this hasty review and regrets his actions when he realises the album was rubbish and he only wanted to boast about his privilege than face the truth. Annie's honesty wins her the hand of friendship from Tucker and Duncan realises how close he was to being near his hero, if only he had told the truth.
Other good stuff
I like how Tucker manages to keep his life private, even going to the extent of letting his neighbour, farmer john be the fake Tucker (known as F*cker). Tucker's relationships with his several children vary from good to terrible ~ many are the results of flings during his hey day. He makes good with his youngest, six year old Jackson who he is very close to. The family cumulate around Tucker during a trip to England where he also joins up with Annie who he has met on the internet and flirts with on email.
During the American tour, Duncan finds himself in a weird situation, having broken into the house of one of Tucker's ex lovers (Julie) under the pretence that he needs the loo, he question whether he has gone too far this time. He doesn't get caught but he gives himself a good scare!
Nick Hornby writes with good humour on a subject 'fame' which he shows clever insight into. The title of the book draws you in and actually refers to Tucker's album title. You don't exactly root for Duncan and Annie to get back together but it's not the worst outcome if that happens.
Juliet, Naked is the third book by Nick Hornby that I have read, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I previously read About a Boy and High Fidelity, both of which I thought were great, but I think I liked this one even more than either of those.
Hornby's books are a bit off beat, with quirky, slightly nerdy characters, and Juliet, Naked is no exception. It is the story of a couple called Duncan and Annie, living in a dull, boring seaside town, whose lives are mostly ruled by Duncan's obsession with a reclusive former musician named Tucker Crowe. He runs a website dedicated to discussing music by a man that stopped making music nearly 15 years before, and seems to talk and think of little else. The novel opens with Duncan taking Annie on a pilgrimage to America to see various Tucker-related locations, and shortly after returning, there comes a defining moment in their dying relationship, a new Tucker Crowe album.
Annie and Duncan react to it in completely different ways, and it is a consequence of this that Duncan meets someone else, and they split up. Annie is then (slightly unbelievably) contacted by Tucker himself in reaction to her first-ever contribution to Duncan's website, and this is where the story really gets going.
The characterisation of all of these slightly odd people, is great and very believable, and the story is perfectly current, as people can now join groups to discuss just about any obscure thing you could imagine on the internet. The difference between the imaginings of this Tucker-obsessed group, and the man himself, are also a great comment on fame and the way that people see celebrities, which is often probably nothing to do with the way they actually are.
In reality, Tucker's life is both more normal and far more complicated than any of the site's members believe, and this is what makes his character interesting. His regret and self-image do not relate only to his career as a musician and its end, but also many other failings in his life. It is his regret, and Annie's for wasting so much time with Duncan, that make their email-relationship last and develop.
The relationships in this novel, the characterisation, and the great descriptions of places really make the story seem very vivid, and I really could not put it down. I wanted so much to know what would happen next, and while some of it was slightly predictable, there were certainly surprises. Also, I found that even if I was quite sure what would happen, the way that Hornby delivers is always very funny.
That is another thing this book really is. While the story and characters are great, the best thing about this novel is how funny it is. The slightly ridiculous things that happen and that characters say add to the enjoyment of the book and I laughed out loud a couple of times. Hornby makes it easy to visualise the ridiculous things he is describing, and the mental image that accompanies some of the scenes really make this book hilarious.
I also liked the way that what happens at the end is alluded to, rather than spelled out in a cheesy, overly dramatic conclusion as a lesser book may have done.
I have only just finished reading this book earlier today (it only took me about two), and I already want to read it again. I also think it might be time to find myself another Hornby novel to read very soon. For anyone that likes funny, quirky novels that are still super smart, I would highly suggest this one.