Tuesday, 23 February 2010

A Year in Books 10 - Juliet Naked

I should own up that I'm a Nick Hornby fan, I've liked pretty much everything he has done including the so called "disappointing ones", "How to be Good" and "A Long Way Down", Add to that the fact that in "31 songs" he chose to write about an obscure Bible b side and that any music loving male would shudder in recognition when reading "High Fidelity"

If he was American i think he would be held up as a great writer in the mould of Anne Tyler, whereas here he is viewed a bit in the press's book pages as a laddier version of Richard Curtis. Even the good reviews can't disguise a suspicion that he really writes chick lit for men in their 30s and 40s.

"Juliet Naked" revolves around 3 main characters, a slightly nerdy and sad obsessive fan of an American singer songwriter who suddenly dropped out of the music business, his long time girlfriend who feels her life has hit a dead end and Tucker Crowe the before mentioned singer who's is in the death throws of his latest relationship. The lives of all 3 change after a the release of demo versions of the singers most famous lp which brings the 3 together.

As ever Nick Hornby's strengths are to the fore all the 3 main characters are well drawn, moments of truth are scattered among the prose as are moments of recognition especially in how we view our heroes and the work that they produce. His biggest strength is to make writing seem so easy and effortless which in itself takes the biggest effort.

My only gripe is with some of the minor characters eg the psychiatrist character Malcolm who acts as the voice of polite caution that can typify middle England. When ever he appears it feels slightly more laboured as he just doesn't feel credible.

On the surfaceit is a book about relationships and family but it is much more than that, the regret and disappointment of a life wasted, a feeling of is it too late?,the scariness of change, where does art come from and the meaning we attach to it, who we want our heroes to be, all topped off with a sense of redemption. The results is an ending that while satisfying leaves you with a desire to know "what happens next". Oh and it is also very funny.

I recognise that Nick Hornby's voice can be a bit narrow, but if you are middle aged and slightly middle class (whatever that means these days) then that voice rings true

You can buy Juliet Naked here


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