I am a great fan of Nick Hornby. I once told a girlfriend that reading High Fidelity would give her all the secrets to the way I think. I really find myself in Hornby’s insecure, culturally-aware, reasonably pretentious protagonists. I think a lot of people feel the same way. To me, that’s one of the magical things about his writing. He can tell a story about a middle-aged woman in coastal England who is dying to have a baby and meets a bygone rock star that her ex-boyfriend obsessed over and I can still find myself in her words with no trouble.
The prose in Juliet is some of the nicest I’ve read in a long time. I say nice because he doesn’t go into long, poetic phrases like Oscar Wilde, but it’s perfectly suited to the story being told. It’s very casual in its wording, yet will dip into the deeper meanings of the things going on almost seamlessly. The book loses a lot of the goodwill when it tries to take advantage of its modern setting and uses an internet message board format, but it’d not distracting enough that I would lose my affinity for the rest of the story.
The characters in this book feel so familiar right away that there is really very little time spent in idle exposition. We meet the characters and immediately see them as the people they’ve known all their lives see them. Even a character who is purposefully wrapped in mystery for most of the story comes into it feeling like an old boot or some other worn-out cliche for familiarity. They just enter the story, scars and all, and we get to see them grow, knowing everything about who they already are.
My one major gripe here is that the man does not know how to end a novel. Even High Fidelity, which would rate in my top 5 favourite books of all time, had an ending that left me unsatisfied and frustrated. Juliet‘s ending isn’t even just frustrating. It barely ends. The last words of the book are a punchline at the expense of one of the main characters. It seems disrespectful to the character, and to the reader who has developed a love for the characters in the story.
I would still recommend the book, even though I was frustrated by it. Just don’t come crying to me when you don’t like the ending.