Caution: This post was written as part of an academic exercise and contains plot spoilers. – Bill
Nick Hornby’s Juliet, Naked centers on Annie, a museum curator in the town of Gooleness in northern England, and her relationships with her boyfriend, Duncan, and a reclusive former rock singer, Tucker Crowe. Duncan is obsessed with Crowe’s life and music, an obsession that Annie has incorporated into her own life along with Duncan, a university professor. Tucker Crowe had been a minor but upcoming musician in the early 1980s before disappearing from public view. With the widening use of the internet, the few Crowe fans spread across the world unite under the umbrella of a website dedicated to Crowe and maintained by Duncan.
Because of Duncan’s obsession with Tucker Crowe, Annie and Duncan spend their most recent vacation visiting places in America where significant events in Crow‘s life have taken place. These places include the house in which Tucker grew up, a toilet in a bar in Minneapolis, where something profound supposedly happened that caused Crowe to enter a self-imposed exile and retirement, and the home of Crowe’s lost love Julie Beatty, about whom Crowe’s most famous album, Juliet, is written, because, as the lyrics of “You and Your Perfect Life,” describe, Tucker stood outside “Throwing stones at the window / ‘Til he came to the door” (14). During the trip, Annie chooses not to go see Julie Beatty’s home, an act that exacerbates the growing rift in her and Duncan’s already stagnant, fifteen-year relationship, a rift due in no small part to Annie’s desire to have children and Duncan’s refusal.
On returning to Gooleness, they continue their routines, and one day Annie opens a letter addressed to Duncan—he only opens packages from Amazon.com—to find an advanced copy of a new CD by Tucker Crowe, a demo version of Crowe’s most important album, which the label is releasing as Juliet, Naked. In an act of malicious betrayal, Annie listens to the CD without Duncan. Duncan is devastated, but immediately transfers the songs to his iPod player and listens to them several times while sitting by the ocean. The relationship turns from cool to hostile. Duncan writes an overreaching review, extolling the merits of the simplified versions of Crowe’s songs, but Annie does something, she’s never done in the past by asking if she could submit her own review of Juliet, Naked. Duncan reads her draft, warns her of the possible backlash from the obsessive people who inhabit the website, and posts her review, which opposes to Duncan’s praise of the new release.
Annie’s review gets more positive feedback from the frenzied fans, and one individual who contacts her to concur with her negative opinion is Tucker Crowe, with whom Annie begins an email relationship. Duncan has an affair and eventually moves out but keeps in touch with Annie because he misses her relaxed attitudes. Crowe is rumored to have only one child, a daughter by Julie Beatty; however, Tucker reveals to Annie that he has five by four different women; none are Beatty. Crowe requests that Annie not reveal his contact to the fans on the website because “they seem like pretty weird people” (73).
Annie and Tucker exchange pictures, and Duncan sees the picture of Crowe and his youngest son, Jackson, printed and placed (purposefully) on Annie’s refrigerator, but he fails to recognize the aging recluse. In the photo Tucker is clean-cut, and the last confirmed picture of Crowe was not actually him at all but a friend named John who lives nearby farm who became known locally as Fake Tucker (171).
Although Tucker is close with only one of his children, six-year-old Jackson, most of them keep track of him and visit periodically. When one of his daughters has a miscarriage in London, he makes arrangements to meet Annie while there. In London, Tucker has a heart attack and he and Jackson go to Gooleness with Annie to recover and to escape the gathering of all his children (a first) who are coming to visit him. During this time, Annie, as well as the readers, discover that the reason Tucker was in the Minneapolis toilet was only to relieve himself, but he had just been told of his first child, born of a woman he was dating at the same time as Julie Beatty. The falsehood of his music—he hadn’t liked Beatty very much—coupled with the shock of becoming a parent drove him into seclusion and retirement.
Annie reveals to Tucker that her previous boyfriend was the obsessed Duncan who runs the website, and on Tucker and Duncan’s first meeting, Duncan is angered at Annie for playing a joke by having her new boyfriend introduce himself as Tucker Crowe. Duncan, however, begins to have doubts that Annie would commit such a cruel act and begins to study the early pictures of Tucker and the more recent (which now includes a video of John singing) of the Fake Tucker. He goes to Annie’s house and meets with Tucker. Duncan is overbearing and nearly provokes a fight with Tucker, but eventually, they become amicable.
Annie and Tucker finally have sex (which would have come sooner if not for the heart attack and the presence of Jackson), and Annie fakes putting in a contraceptive device in hopes of getting pregnant. Tucker and Jackson return to the states, and Tucker makes another album, one with happier music than Juliet, which receives horrible reviews from Duncan and his cohorts.
While I’ve touched on many of the important points in the novel, plenty remains for your exploration. I highly recommend Hornby’s work.
Hornby, Nick. Juliet, Naked. New York: Riverhead Books, 2009. Print.