Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Juliet, Naked Book Review

Juliet, Naked by Nick Hornby

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In a dreary seaside town in England, Annie loves Duncan - or thinks she does, because she always has. Duncan loves Annie, but then, all of a sudden, he doesn't anymore. So Annie stops loving Duncan, and starts getting her own life.

She sparks an e-mail correspondence with Tucker Crowe, a reclusive Dylanesque singer-songwriter who stopped making music twenty-two years ago, and who is also Duncan's greatest obsession. A surprising 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, familial, and artistic ruin - his young son, Jackson. But then there's also the material he's about to release to the world, an acoustic, stripped-down version of his greatest album, Juliet, titled Juliet, Naked. And he's just been summoned across the Atlantic with Jackson to face his multitude of ex-wives and children (both just discovered and formerly neglected), in the same country where his intriguing new Internet friend resides.

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.

Review by Brittany:

This is a book about music. Except really it isn't. It's more about the musician and the ways in which life doesn't go the way you expect, even if you're semi-famous. And it's also about not being a musician and how life doesn't go the way you expect it to.

One skill of Hornby's is his ability to show the dreariest sides of relationships. He did this in High Fidelity and he does this again in this novel. Annie and Duncan have been floating along, staying together more out of convenience than for any other reason. Duncan jumps at the first opportunity to stray, and Annie realizes that maybe Duncan isn't worth keeping around, no matter how much he apologizes.

The relationship between Tucker and Annie is fragile at best, and the development of it is interesting. They mostly use email as a way to correspond and start developing something, no matter how impractical the relationship is. When he travels to England from the US, he meets with her in person. They are able to communicate in the same fashion as they did during email, building some type of relationship. The whole thing is impractical, however, because Tucker is married, lives in another country, and has a son with his wife.

Tucker is also a character with few redeeming qualities. He disappeared from the music scene, leaving more and more abandoned children and hurt ex-wives behind him. He has no money, no inspiration to write music or to sing again, and no desire to really be back on the music scene. He is just existing. His one real redeeming quality is his love for his youngest son Jackson, the one child he interacts with and has truly attempted to raise.

So if the characters aren't redeemable and the relationships are doomed, why is this a good book? Because Hornby writes it the best. He makes these characters lovable - or relatable or believable, at the very least - and gives the relationships bursts of promise, even if the majority of it is not promising at all.

The end of the book did leave me feeling a bit incomplete. I feel like there were loose ends that I would like to have tied up, but in leaving those ends loose, I think Hornby has actually told me everything I need to know.

This book isn't a happy book, but it's also not a depressing book. It just is. And this book does what it does in the best possible way. I would definitely recommend it.

Notable quotes:

But she could see now that a lot of resentment had been locked into her somewhere, and it was busy, restless stuff, roaming around looking for the tiniest open window.

Not being married to him was becoming every bit as irritating as she imagined marriage to him might be.

We get together with people because they're the same or because they're different, and in the end we split with them for exactly the same reasons.

There was an awful lot to be said for familiarity, if you thought about it. It was an extremely underrated virtue, ignorable until the very moment that you were in danger of losing whatever or whoever it was that was familiar - a house, a view, a partner.

It was hopeless, life, really. It was set up all wrong.

She had to defend him in order to defend herself. That was why people were so prickly about their partners, even their ex-partners.

It was an illness, loneliness - it made you weak, gullible, feeble-minded.

The trouble was, she couldn't help but be boring and bland and sensible and good.

But then, that was the trouble with relationships generally. They had their own temperature, and there was no thermostat.

Tucker accepted completely that women were the fairer and wiser sex, but they were also irredeemably vicious when the occasion demanded.

She was trying to say something else; she was trying to say that the inability to articulate what one feels in any satisfactory way is one of our enduring tragedies.

The truth about life was that nothing ever ended until you died, and even then you just left a whole bunch of unresolved narratives behind you.

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