Thursday, January 20, 2011

Review - Juliet by Anne Fortier

Synopsis (via Goodreads): Twenty-five-year-old Julie Jacobs is heartbroken over the death of her beloved aunt Rose. But the shock goes even deeper when she learns that the woman who has been like a mother to her has left her entire estate to Julie’s twin sister. The only thing Julie receives is a key—one carried by her mother on the day she herself died—to a safety-deposit box in Siena, Italy.

This key sends Julie on a journey that will change her life forever—a journey into the troubled past of her ancestor Giulietta Tolomei. more

Review: A lush adventure/romance exploring the story that inspired Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. In alternating chapters, we meet a modern woman, Julie, who is searching for her family's history (and hoping for treasure too) and meeting friends and enemies along the way, and we hear from Friar Lorenzo, Giulietta Tolomei and Romeo Marescotti as their story unfolds in 1340 AD (similar to Shakespeare’s but with some differences).

Both of these tales take place not in "fair Verona" but in the equally gorgeous Siena, Italy. Settings don’t get much better than this. Siena is a city rich with history and beauty, the sort of city you fall in love with and never want to leave. In fact, the author’s bio on the back flap of the book says she wrote the book for her mother who “considered Verona as her true home until she discovered Siena.” In this book, we tour Siena with Julie, visiting cathedrals and piazzas and concert halls. We learn about the vast underground aqueducts and the palio (a traditional medieval horse race). Gorgeous.

In this book, you never quite know who to trust (which does work against character development a bit). Feuding households and curses on both houses have spilled over from the 1340s to modern times, and Julie (who learns her birth name is actually Giulietta Tolomei) has to figure out what happened to the original Giulietta, what really happened to her parents, and who she should trust now as she uncovers the secrets of Romeo and Giulietta.

The plot's a bit clumsy at times (with convenient coincidences and characters who could have saved a lot of trouble by just explaining things in the first place), but it’s fun anyway. Though for a tale that rewrites the origin of Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet, I could have done with a little less consensus among the characters that our modern Julie is pretty much the Juliet simply because she is the first of the female line in 300 years to have the same name as the original Giulietta. As in, since she's “Juliet”, she must be destined for a man named Romeo who is also descended from the original Romeo. But ... didn't "Romeo & Juliet" itself say, "what's in a name?”

Bottom line: it’s a fun action/adventure/romance that retells a classic story.

Lit Snit Verdict: B+

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