Wasted time. What happens when you wake up one day and realize you are not quite happy with the life you are living and feel as though a good deal of it has been wasted? This stark realization hits a childless and middle-aged Annie, a curator at a small, English seaside town museum and in a stagnant 15 year relationship with Duncan, a pretentious music fan who is obsessed with an obscure singer/songwriter named Tucker Crowe who mysteriously and abruptly left the music scene ten years before. All the way across the Atlantic in rural Pennsylvania lives Tucker Crowe who faces the realization of being haunted by failures and wasted time from his past that are affecting his present relationships. A new release, in the form of a stripped down version of his most famous album entitled Juliet, will forever change the lives of Annie, Duncan and Tucker and brings them together to face the lives they haven’t been living and make a decision about what it is they truly want for themselves.
Juliet, Naked is my first experience with Nick Hornby and I am quite pleased. I very much enjoyed his style and found him to be humorous, thoughtful and able to make very astute observations through interesting and quirky characters. The emotional aspects of the story are not overwrought and there is delicately placed humor within the pages. I found myself laughing out loud a few times–mainly at Tucker’s son Jackson. I can see Hornby becoming a favorite author if the rest of his novels are as good as this one. There were so many beautiful quotes that I wrote down from this book that I can’t even begin to share them! Such as:
“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”
I couldn’t put this book down once I had a good chunk of time to devote to it. I was reading it over Thanksgiving and it was near impossible to get into it at first with all the travel and family and general madness. The next day I curled up with this book to be drawn into such a good story. I loved Annie! I found her to be such a multi-faceted character and thought she was very real. I found Duncan to be annoying and whiny but reminiscent of some of the crowd I used to hang out with in college. I will admit that I used to be a little bit pretentious in my music and film taste and scoff at others with “lesser” tastes so I could relate in some ways. Tucker was an interesting character for me and his relationship with his son was adorable. There was so much beneath the surface with him and at some points you wanted to hate him for his actions and failures but then you’d find other things about him that were so redeemable. I loved learning the truths about his life that Duncan and all his “Crowologists” got wrong. The little “love triangle” was pretty entertaining.
I was a little disappointed with the ending I will admit. I had to read it over a few times to try and figure out what happened because it was pretty vague and left open to interpretation. I think the thing that bugged me the most about it was that it seemed rushed towards the end so I just wasn’t happy all around with the ending. Perhaps if it would have been built up differently I wouldn’t have been so irked by an ambiguous ending.
My final thought: Read this if you are looking for a really wonderful novel that deals with the rumpled nature of real life that is emotional and yet quite funny in all the right ways. This book peers into life and the loneliness that can seep into our lives. I think it is also about second chances–giving your life a second chance despite how much you’ve screwed up or no matter how much time you’ve wasted on a relationship, a job, etc. etc. I think if you are a passionate music fan, like myself, you will love this for the passion that drives these characters and the fact that this really is a book about music and the people who make it and those who consume it. There is a quote that I just can’t find at the moment that talks about this idea perfectly but it really made me think about how I interpret what I read and listen to versus the real meaning behind the art and how others interpret it.
Rating: 4 stars