three-and-half-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
43-Nov-Dec-2009
user_rating: 
0

A-Juliet NakedNick Hornby is the author of A Long Way Down ( 3 of 5 Stars Sept/Oct 2005), Slam, How to Be Good, High Fidelity, and About a Boy; the memoir Fever Pitch; Songbook; and The Polysyllabic Spree, a collection of "Stuff I’ve Been Reading" columns from the magazine the Believer.

The Story: In a depressed British seaside town, Annie, a museum curator nearing 40, has been in a dead-end, 15-year relationship with Duncan, a man obsessed with Tucker Crowe, a somewhat enigmatic 1970s American singer and songwriter. To Annie, Duncan’s infatuation represents everything wrong in their relationship. When Tucker releases a new album, Juliet, Naked—an acoustic version of his greatest work—Annie rants against it in Duncan’s online chat room—and inadvertently initiates an e-mail correspondence with the music legend himself. Soon, Annie and Tucker realize that they are both looking for new chances at life.
Riverhead. 406 pages. $25.95. ISBN: 9781594488870

Los Angeles Times 4 of 5 Stars
"Tucker and Annie’s lives are destined to intertwine like the iPod headset on the book’s cover, but not exactly as you’d expect. … [The book] turns on an e-mail correspondence and concerns itself with how what we create can be read (and over-read), all in Hornby’s swift, shiny, funny writing style." Carolyn Kellogg

Miami Herald 4 of 5 Stars
"Nick Hornby has always had an unerring ear for the rhythm and blues of modern love. In his latest novel, a funny, painfully insightful examination of contemporary romance, he mixes that skill with sardonic humor and a pitch-perfect knowledge of pop culture and music and the ways they influence us." Connie Ogle

Washington Post 4 of 5 Stars
"[Hornby] gently satirizes rockaphiles in a way that only endears him to them, and though this new novel will appeal to a broad audience for romantic comedy, anyone with a fading poster of Van Morrison will hum along, too. … As usual, Hornby’s dialogue between exasperated women and clueless men hits all the right comic notes." Ron Charles

Entertainment Weekly 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Unlike 2001’s How to Be Good, whose female narrator felt like nothing so much as Hornby in drag, it is, genuinely and generously, About a Girl. … There are no great revelations—aside from the ones we expect the main characters to have, which are duly granted—but Hornby’s clear-eyed affection for the gratifyingly human Annie (and her deeply flawed suitors) reads like the work of a man who is finally, happily all grown up." Leah Greenblatt

Guardian (UK) 3 of 5 Stars
"When Hornby tells us what’s going on in a character’s head, it’s not that we don’t believe him, more that it leaves us too little to do. I wanted gaps, I wanted subtext, I wanted uncertainty." Julie Myerson

Times (UK) 3 of 5 Stars
"The opening 40 pages of his new novel positively purr with accomplishment, combining quick social observation with a pitch-perfect, amiable wit to paint a picture of a relationship so moribund that it has lost the energy even to expire. … But it is also a novel that stays safely within set parameters, and therefore ends up equal to, but not greater than, the sum of its parts." Adam Lively

Wall Street Journal 3 of 5 Stars
"Juliet, Naked will neither win over his detractors nor disappoint his admirers. … [It] is solid but lacks the punch of the superb High Fidelity." Niall Stanage

Critical Summary

Hornby is best known for his riffs on modern (male) love, music, and pop culture. While critics generally praised his newest novel, all agreed that Hornby replays his stock themes without stretching himself as an artist. (But despite his predictability, the Washington Post points out: "[W]ho’s complaining? After all, we always expect Bruce Springsteen to sound like Bruce Springsteen.") What is new, however, is Hornby’s focus on a woman’s—Annie’s—perspective on relationships and a foray into American culture. And the novel contains Hornby’s beloved "sardonic humor and a pitch-perfect knowledge of pop culture and music and the ways they influence us" (Miami Herald), as well as marvelous characters and comic, charming moments—exactly why many readers will continue to love Hornby.