I’ve seen Juliet, Naked making the rounds on a few book blogs lately, so I thought I’d give it a try. I borrowed a copy of the audiobook from my local library.

About the Book:

Juliet Naked by Nick Hornby (cover)Annie and Duncan have been together for years. Duncan is an avid fan of Tucker Crowe, an American musician who enjoyed moderate success before essentially going into hiding. Duncan runs a website devoted to the singer where fans analyze lyrics, share gossip, and debate just about everything related to Crowe. Annie plays along, interested enough in Crowe but lacking the obsession which consumes her long-term boyfriend.

When we first meet Annie and Duncan, they are on something of a Tucker Crowe pilgrimage through the United States, visiting famous and notorious sites connected with the singer. Duncan is ecstatic, and Annie is enjoying her vacation to America. But when they return to their tiny hometown of Gooleness, England, something happens that sets off a chain of Crowe-related incidents that will forever alter Annie, Duncan, and their relationship.

My Thoughts:

Nick Hornby is the first author I’ve encountered whose fiction and nonfiction strike me so differently. That might be because many novelists don’t write nonfiction, just as nonfiction writers don’t necessarily do novels. I suppose I expected more continuity. It’s not that I dislike Hornby’s fiction in favor of his essays; it’s just that the two genres seem so very different! It’s a matter of personal preference, maybe, but certainly not of quality.

I adored The Polysyllabic Spree, my favorite nonfiction read of 2010, about which many of you are probably tired of hearing. It’s a collection of essays Hornby wrote about his monthly reading. Naturally, I figured I’d check out Hornby’s fiction, since I enjoy his essays so much. I thought Juliet, Naked was the first novel of Hornby’s I’d read, but it turns out I’d completely forgotten about Slam, which I listened to at the beginning of 2010.

I never talked about Slam on Erin Reads, mostly because I couldn’t figure out what I wanted to say about it. I feel the same way about Juliet, Naked. I enjoyed both stories. It’s not that they’re unremarkable or mediocre or boring; on the contrary, the characters were complicated and interesting and I enjoyed watching the stories unfold. The plots are original. I have no complaints.

Yet I don’t find myself completely absorbed in Hornby’s novels the way I was with his essays. I’ve liked the two of his novels I’ve read and will, I’m sure, read others. I’ve heard High Fidelity is the favorite, so that one, at least, is on my list. But based on my delight with The Polysyllabic Spree, I’d have expected a higher level of attachment to its fictitious counterparts.

The audio production of Juliet, Naked was quite good. Each of the three main characters has his or her own reader, and all three readers (Bill Irwin, Jennifer Wiltsie, and Ben Miles) do a very nice job. The pace was just about right, as were the accents. The shifting perspectives gave Juliet, Naked a sense of movement I didn’t get as much with Slam, which stays with one character all the way through. If you’d like to try a Hornby audiobook, I would certainly say Juliet, Naked, would be a good place to start!

Your Turn!

Have you ever encountered an author whose work was strongly divided like this for you?

Join the Conversation


    1. That’s good to hear! I’ve never felt such a divide within one author’s works before. And not of quality…of something else I can’t quite put my finger on!

    1. I don’t think if you like Hornby’s fiction, you’ll dislike his nonfiction. It’s more like they’re totally different things, so you kind of have to try both and judge them separately from one another!

  1. I actually think I would enjoy his non-fiction a lot more than his fiction as well, as everything I have heard described about his fiction seems to leave me curiously cold. I do have the The Polysyllabic Spree waiting for me this year, and I am actually very excited about it! Great review on this one. I don’t think it would be the book for me, but I am glad you enjoyed it!

    1. I definitely think you have to try both his fiction and his nonfiction instead of judging one by the other. They’re so different! I hope you do give The Polysyllabic Spree a shot — I’d love to hear what you think!

    1. Thanks for the tip! I might do High Fidelity and then be done with his fiction for a while. I do have a couple other essay collections, so I’ll just go back to those!

  2. I actually feel the exact same way that you do about Hornby – I really do prefer his non-fiction to his fiction, not that there is anything wrong with his fiction. I guess I just connect better with his essays than I do with the worlds and characters he creates.

    1. You put it much more succinctly than I did! That’s exactly it, though. It’s not that either is bad; it’s just that they’re different, so just because you (dis)like his fiction doesn’t mean you’ll feel the same (or opposite) about his nonfiction.

  3. I like both his nonfiction and fiction but I do actually feel somewhat similarly about his fiction. I always like the story and enjoy it but I never feel THAT strongly about it.

    1. Glad to hear another person feels that way! That’s just it — I like his novels, but I don’t feel particularly devoted to them.

  4. I just read Polysyllabic Spree and its two sequels over winter break and absolutely loved them all. (I promise I’ll eventually get around to reviewing them for the blog.) He has such a wonderful voice in his nonfiction.

    1. I’ve only read the first one, but I have the other two. It’s almost like I don’t want to read them too quickly — I’d rather space them out! I love his essays. Glad you do, too!

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