So I finished book #66 of the year and it happened to be my third Nick Hornby book of the year and ever. He turned into one of my favorites this year, and I’m so excited because he has so many more books! I look forward to reading them.
The book I read was Juliet, Naked and it was great. Something wonderful happens when Nick Hornby writes about music; the first novel I read by him was High Fidelity, also strongly focused on music, and this one felt comparable in all the best ways. Especially because it was about so much more than music.
So this book is about a man named Duncan and a woman named Annie. They start the book as a depressing, passive couple who’ve been dating and living together for 15 years. Duncan has an unhealthy obsession with Tucker Crowe, a moderately famous musician from the ’80s who suddenly dropped out of the music altogether for reasons unknown but endlessly analyzed by his fans.
Duncan runs a fan website devoted to Tucker, and the book begins with Duncan and Annie on a trip to America (they live in a small, Northern-England seaside town) visiting significant places in Tucker’s life. Because of Duncan’s devotion, he receives an advanced copy of an acoustic record that Tucker has decided to put out after decades of silence.
Annie happens to listen to the CD first, and writes a review against it. Thus begins her relationship with Tucker Crowe himself, and the end of her and Duncan. I’m not going to ruin it, but it’s a really good book.
It raises funny questions about celebrity, and how much liberty we often take as fans interpreting some of our favorite artists. This book splits perspectives so that sometimes you hear from Annie, sometimes Duncan, and sometimes Tucker. It’s perfect to see Duncan’s self-assured interpretation of a Tucker Crowe album, then Tucker saying the girl who this same album is about was a boring airhead.
I also loved this book because all the characters were nearing 40 or older. Annie especially feels helpless and lost as she realizes she wasted 15 years of her life with a man who loved a musician more than he’d ever love her. Tucker’s perspective was interesting too, as a recovering alcoholic with several children by several different women and an inability to recount years of his life.
I’m going into too much detail, but everyone should read this. You should especially read this if you like High Fidelity or music or both. I caught the word “subtle” on the back cover of this book to describe Hornby’s writing, and I think that’s the most perfect word.
His writing is just so easy to read, but it’s not necessarily simple because there’s a lot of meaning and wit; it’s subtle and I love it. ◊
So it’s not about what you do. It can’t be, can it? It has to be about how you are, how you love, how you treat yourself and those around you, and that’s where I get eaten up.”
– page 234, email from Tucker to Annie