Anne Fortier – Juliet
Length: 448 pages
Genre: Mystery/Thriller; Historical Fiction (about half)
Started: 07 August 2010
Finished: 10 August 2010
Where did it come from? From the publishers for review.
Why do I have it? As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a bit of a closet Shakespeare buff, and so this ad in Shelf Awareness immediately caught my eye.
How long has it been on my TBR pile? Since 13 April 2010
Shakespeare got it wrong:
Siena, not Verona’s
where we set our scene.
Summary: Julie Jacobs’s parents died in Italy when she was very young, and she’s spent the rest of her life being raised by her Great-Aunt Rose and being overshadowed by her twin sister, Janice. So when Rose dies and Janice inherits her estate, Julie is admittedly a little bit peeved that all she gets is the key to her mother’s safe deposit box in Siena. But she travels to Italy, and discovers that her family has a legacy – for her real name is not Julie Jacobs, but Giulietta Tolomei, and she’s descended from the Giulietta Tolomei who was the real-life inspiration for Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. But her family legacy seems to come with more trouble than treasure… Family feuds in Siena can linger for centuries, and now Julie’s being stalked by a mysterious and dangerous man. What’s more, the modern day descendants of the original two feuding houses believe that both of their families are living under a terrible curse, one that can only be broken if Juliet finally finds her Romeo.
Review: Romeo and Juliet was the first Shakespearean play that I ever read, it’s the play I’ve seen staged the most times, and it’s almost certainly to blame for turning me into a Shakespeare buff. So when you hand me a novel that deals with the historical basis of the tale of the star-cross’d lovers – and when that novel uses interweaving modern and historical timelines, one of my favorite literary devices – you’ve got a recipe for one very happy reader.
And, happily, Juliet did not disappoint. It’s a solid mystery/thriller, with clues being doled out at a decent pace, some really surprising twists, a strong historical/literary background that leads to the whole story tying together wonderfully neatly, and even a sizeable dollop of romance thrown in the mix. It was crazy-compelling, keeping me up way past my bedtime because I just *had* to finish it. I also loved that I actually learned something about the history of the play, too – I wish the Author’s Note had been more explicit about what parts of the historical sections were verifiable and which were invention, but as near as I could tell the story had a strong grounding in fact. And, as well as Fortier depicts the historical sections, she does even better at describing modern-day Siena. While I’ve certainly read other books that have made me want to visit their settings, I don’t think I’d ever before read one that had me actively researching plane tickets.
This book did have its flaws: Fortier’s characterizations are not very complex, and Janice in particular feels a bit overdone. Her writing also still has a few rough edges; while it’s mostly unobtrusive, and her dialogue in particular sounds fresh and realistic, she’s got a tendency to deliver the exposition in a breathless infodump, rather than letting the answers to the mysteries unfold at a more natural pace. However, while I certainly noticed these things, they didn’t really bother me or detract from my enjoyment of a book. There are some books you read for the compelling characters, some books you read for the beautiful use of language, and some books you read because they’ve got a hell of a plot that is involving enough that you can’t put them down. This book falls firmly into the third category, which may not make it a literary masterwork, but definitely made it an absorbing and entertaining summer read. 4 out of 5 stars.
Recommendation: This book felt very similar to The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane – modern day thriller coupled with historical mystery. If you liked that book, any of those genres, and/or Romeo & Juliet, then you’ll definitely enjoy Juliet as well.
Links: Anne Fortier’s website
Other Reviews: The Printed Page
Have you reviewed this book? Leave a comment with the link and I’ll add it in.
First Line: They say I died.
Was I insane? Maybe. But then, there are many different kinds of insanity. Aunt Rose had always taken for granted that the whole world was in a state of constantly fluctuating madness, and that a neurosis was not an illness, but a fact of life, like pimples. Some have more, some have less, but only truly abnormal people have none at all. (p. 90)
Vocab: (see the whole list)
- p. 221: ““Let us make sure” – reaching into his cotehardie, he pulled out Romeo’s dagger and unsheathed it – “you pick no more.”” – a close-fitting outer garment with long sleeves, hip-length for men and full-length for women, often laced or buttoned down the front or back.
**All quotes are from an ARC and may not reflect the final published text.**
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