Nick Hornby is one of those writers I hadn’t previously read, for no other reason than that there are so many to choose from these days. I came across Juliet, Naked on a local charity stall and, knowing I’d be in hospital for minor surgery for a day and would therefore be a captive audience, paid the small fee requested. I’d seen the film version of his About A Boy and thought I’d probably find something in his writing to appeal to me.
I’m glad I picked up the book. The ‘Juliet’ of the title is an album of rock music worshipped by the heroin’s obsessive live-in lover. And the ‘Naked’ refers to a more recently discovered album from the same performer, but in its raw state. It is, cleverly, the couple’s different perceptions of these two music collections that act as the catalyst for the events and revelations that make the story.
As a study of relationships, it’s a brilliant piece of work. That the characters are peculiar is a given, but they are real people for all that. Hornby has lived with these people, in his head if not in fact. He understands them, loves them, loathes them, laughs with them, cries with them. And the reader is sufficiently convinced by the portrayals to empathise with them.
The northern seaside town is so well drawn that I could believe I’ve lived there. As a northerner who spent some of my childhood in such a place, I was instantly at home. The American experiences in the book took me to places I hadn’t been and convinced me equally of their reality.
The interplay of the characters with their sometimes tenuous, sometimes profound connections, came across naturally and with emotional depth. There were passages where I laughed out loud, places I smiled and nodded my agreement, portions that had me grinding my teeth with frustration at the stupidity of man. All in all, a book I thoroughly enjoyed. I shall look out for his other novels now and I readily recommend this author to all readers.