Sunday, June 1, 2014

A Tale of Woe and Wonder: Juliet

Juliet by Anne Fortier
Ballantine, 2010

"Two households, both alike in dignity, in fair Verona, where we lay our scene." Such are the opening words to William Shakespeare's masterpiece, but what if Shakespeare got it wrong? What if, for starters, the story of Juliet and her Romeo actually involved three families and took place in Siena?

In her English debut, Juliet, Anne Fortier delves into the rich history of one of the world's most famous tragic stories and weaves it into present day. Twenty five year old Julie Jacobs is heartbroken when her Aunt Rose - the woman who raised her - dies and is shocked when a letter indicates that everything has been left to her cruel twin sister, Janice. Julie gets a secret letter of her own along with a key, a passport, and instructions that her own inheritance awaits in Siena, Italy, the place where Julie and Janice were born and where their parents tragically passed away. Once there, Julie gets wrapped up in learning about the events of the year 1340 and the true story of Romeo and her ancestor, Giulietta. But it appears the old family feud - or at least the curse, the "plague on both your houses" - is still at work, and Julie is its next target unless she can find a modern-day Romeo of her own to help her stop it.

My aunt actually recommended this book to me because her book club recently read it, and I'm so glad that she did! I love Shakespeare and especially since I studied abroad in Verona, Italy, the story of Romeo and Juliet has become something of a constant presence in my life. This novel strikes great balance. Chapters alternate between the events of 1340 and present day, and both time periods are lush in descriptions of what drives these characters and how things and people are not always what or who they appear to be on the surface.

I will admit that there were certain elements that I predicted from the very beginning, but they never turned out exactly how I was expecting. The mystery kept me guessing (though I didn't do a great job of mentally keeping track of some of the details and was a big confused as a result towards the end, so read carefully!). The relationship between Julie and Alessandro - a police captain who has a particular interest in her quest - was more than welcome to this reader, the shift from adversaries to something else was so sudden that it was hard to be believable. However, their constant tension made me especially excited for the present-day chapters.

All in all, I really enjoyed this book. I was hooked right from the get-go and maintained interest as the plot thickened. I agree with those who compare this to book to The Da Vinci Code - the unlocking an ancient puzzle has a similar sort of feel to it. Should you read this book, read carefully and take your time with it. You'll be glad you did.

Comments welcome, and, as always, happy reading!

Anne Fortier's Website
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