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“Juliet, Naked is a fine, absorbing and intelligent...”

Written on: 03/03/2010 by degbert (120 reviews written)

Juliet, Naked is a fine, absorbing and intelligent book. It achieves this through Hornby's brilliance in portraying states-of-mind through a first-person narrative, and without resorting to anything as unpleasant as complicated characterisations or detailed plot-lines. The heroine is Annie, stuck in the rut of a protracted and unrewarding relationship with Duncan, whose only obsession in life is with a once-famous songwriter Tucker Crowe, now a recluse somewhere in America. Duncan's obsession knows no bounds, Annie's sense of hopelessness is palpable, while Crowe's new life is deliciously uninteresting compared with the pedestal Duncan has built for him.

How Hornby introduces these three lives together is simply done. It stretches plausibility in places, but he is forgiven; the forgiveness is entirely down to the colour of the characterisations, drawn fantastically well through the narratives and monologues that give the book its depth. Each character is multi-dimensional, human, frail, passionate, yearning, childlike, hungry, despite what looks on paper like a dismally straightforward storyline, set in a forgettable Northern town.

What makes this work best is how the angst and fury in High Fidelity, the self-absorption found in How to be Good, and the genuine love of music in 31 Songs all fit together beautifully, against a simply constructed and charmingly-portrayed tale, where everyone (perhaps including Hornby himself) is just that little bit more mature. As such I'd rate this as high as anything he's done so far because it has seen him mature to the point here where the examination of the human condition outweighs the events that shape it.

The faux Wiki entries, discography, web site reviews and song lyrics had me reaching for Amazon to download Crowe's back catalogue. I would be fascinated to see who might play Crowe (and would they 'play' some of his 'songs'?) if this ever got the movie treatment. Can't wait.

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