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Anne Fortier – Juliet

August 16, 2010

93. Juliet by Anne Fortier (2010)

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.

This Review on LibraryThing | This Book on LibraryThing | This Book on Amazon

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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21 Comments leave one →
  1. August 16, 2010 6:58 am

    I recently saw this book listed in my EW and am still on the fence. I’m glad you enjoyed it, I just don’t know if it will work for me.

  2. August 16, 2010 7:26 am

    I’m not a fan of Romeo and Juliet, but I’m glad you enjoyed this!

    • August 18, 2010 11:34 am

      Omni – I don’t know that you need to be a *fan* of R&J, per se, in order to enjoy this book, although it certainly wouldn’t hurt.

  3. August 16, 2010 9:57 am

    This one is in my TBR pile, so I’m glad to see you loved it.

  4. jendevourerofbooks permalink
    August 16, 2010 2:12 pm

    Ooh, didn’t realize this had a mystery/thriller aspect! I need to make time for this…

    • August 18, 2010 11:35 am

      Jen – It’s total brain candy summer reading, so I suspect you’ll tear through it pretty quickly.

  5. August 16, 2010 5:41 pm

    I actually enjoyed the Physick Book of Deliverance Dane…..I’ve added this to my list. :)

    • August 18, 2010 11:36 am

      Michele – I really really liked PBoDD too, and although the subjects are very different, they’ve got a very similar laid-back summer-reading quality to them.

  6. August 17, 2010 7:43 am

    I love Romeo and Juliet–more because of Mercutio than anything else, probably. For a smallish role in terms of screen-time (the friar’s probably around more than he is!), Mercutio is such a great, great character.

    Shame the author wasn’t clearer about distinguishing fact from fiction. I love reading afterwords where they explain what they invented. It’s often not what you’d expect!

    • August 18, 2010 11:37 am

      Jenny – Sadly, no Mercutio in this version, but the rest of the characters take up the burden of providing the snarky dialogue.

  7. chandragarbanzo permalink
    August 17, 2010 11:38 am

    The first line pulls me right in. I’ve never read any of Shakespeare, except bits and pieces in school. I’ll have to give it a try.

    • August 18, 2010 11:37 am

      chandra – As long as you’re familiar with the basic story elements of Romeo & Juliet, you should be fine.

  8. August 18, 2010 2:05 am

    I think Romeo and Juliet is the only Shakespeare play I’ve read but I have seen adaptations of the others or at the very least, I know what they’re about. This does sound really neat though!

    • August 18, 2010 11:38 am

      Ladytink – I’ve seen a lot more Shakespeare than I’ve read, for sure – which I think is how it should be, seeing as they weren’t written to be read quietly to one’s self.

  9. August 18, 2010 8:06 am

    YOu’ve got me more than intrigued and not because R&J is my fave Shakespeare play but because I want more historical thriller. Great post – you explain well the differences and reasons why some books are perfect even when they aren’t.
    I’m going to send this link to my English teacher friend. Thanks!

    • August 18, 2010 11:41 am

      Care – I love love love the modern/historical dual timelines, whether they’re mystery or thriller or romance or whatever, and I’m always happy to come across another book that uses that device.

      I’d be interested to hear what your teacher friend thinks… this isn’t really a book that could (or should) be assigned for classroom reading, but I would have loved it if my ninth-grade English class had incorporated some of the historical background behind the play.

  10. August 19, 2010 2:56 am

    I’ve been seeing a lot of good reviews for this one. I don’t remember which play was my first Shakespeare because we read several of them my Sophomore year of high school – Romeo & Juliet, Julius Caesar, Hamlet, Richard III… Oh, I just had a flashback – Twelfth Night was the first one we read (and I confirmed it with my husband who was in the same class). :)

    • August 25, 2010 9:22 am

      Alyce – I did R&J and Taming of the Shrew for freshman English, the Tempest sophomore year, and Macbeth junior year… and then I took a freshman seminar in college that read a bunch more, plus all of the ones I read on my own time.

  11. December 23, 2010 7:57 am

    Great review. Juliet was my book club’s December selection and we had a great time reading and discussing it! Loved Alejandro … would’ve liked more of him and less of Janice (my only big complaint!)

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