I'm in love with this book. That's not an understatement, I've read it a few times already, and every time I finish I have to resist the urge to pick it straight back up and read it again.
I've always been the stereotypical woman who has swooned appropriately at Romeo & Juliet so I picked this book up thinking it would be a fun modern re-write that I could forget about soon after. Turns out though that this was so much more - it went beyond the Shakespeare tale (and was the better for it) and mingled pastlives, romance, destiny, soulmates, history, crime, mystery, adventure, betrayals and all the fun stuff to make a book that I want to re-read immediately. I'm a sucker for all that so it's like the book was written exactly to my own specifications, which I clearly cannot complain about at all. Also - added bonus, every chapter is prefaced with a R&J quote - how can you not appreciate that?
It's set for the most part in Siena and the descriptions of the town makes the locales easy to imagine even for someone who has never been there and I almost want to go and book a holiday to Siena solely to experience some of it. The two tales - modern and past blend together beautifully and it says a lot about the author that I was equally invested in both stories, even though I knew that one was going to end tragically. The premise involved Julie travelling to Italy on a quest to get something her mother had bequeathed her after her aunt died, in the belief that it will be worth a lot of money and clear her debts after she was written out her aunt's will unexpectedly. In Italy, she travels under her real name, Giulieta Tolomei and discovers that her family is at the centre of an ancient feud with another family and that her name holds some medieval weight nowadays. Her inheritance turns out to be some books and a crucifix, and disappointed begins to read in the hope it explains where the treasure is and the book turns out to be a diary that talks about Giulieta and Romeo, her ancestor and her lover who were the inspiration for the early Italian tellings of Romeo & Juliet before Shakespeare got ahold of it.
It was a wonderful book, and although I'm sure there were aspects of it that people could find fault with - the characterisation of Janice was maybe a little ott and a little out there, but I didn't really mind it that much tbh. I just didn't mind it that much, and I honestly didn't have any complaints. It checked every box that I could possibly want it to check and the balance just felt right.
'Juliet' was an absolutely delightful read. It is written by Anne Fortier, and is a chunky book, at just over 450 pages long. 'Juliet' is a story that makes us forget the 'Romeo and Juliet' of Shakespeare, and tells us to believe that there is an old and mystical story behind the classical love story, that is quite different from the famous version that we all know, but is yet so similar.
The story begins with the death of Aunt Rose, the woman who raised and looked after twin sisters Julie and Janice, after their parents mysteriously passed away when the twins were very young. Julie and Janice's parents were from Italy, as were the girls, but after their death, the twins were sent to America to be looked after by Aunt Rose. All her life, Aunt Rose never talked about the girls' parents, and never really explained how they died. Julie and Janice were led to believe that a tragic car accident has been the reason for their deaths. It is only when Aunt Rose herself dies, that the girls, but more so Julie, discovers that there is so much she was never told about her parents. And it is this discovery that takes us back to more than 500 years ago. Not only is Julie, not really called Julie, but she is quite magically connected to the story of Romeo and Juliet, or rather Romeo and Gulietta.
I felt that this was really something of a masterpiece and will start by saying that I would highly recommend it to avid readers of fiction. I haven't really heard much about Anne Fortier or even 'Juliet' itself, and therefore I feel so very lucky to have stumbled upon this book in the library. It was an original storyline and I loved the way as we, the reader, keep moving between modern day life and the 14th century. And all of this was done without, I felt, confusion. For almost the whole book, each alternate chapter is a different time. So one minute we are in 21st century America or Sienna (Italy), the next we are in 14th century Sienna, and this constant transition feels flawless.
Many references are made to Shakespeare's 'Romeo and Juliet', but Anne Fortier's Romeo and Gulietta is just as interesting a story. In fact the suggestion in this book that Shakespeare's version has originated from Romeo and Gulietta is really quite believable, and the way that the two versions are often compared side by side in 'Juliet' is very stimulating, and I often found myself just stopping every now and again whilst reading this book and thinking, 'that's brilliant!'. I think Anne Fortier has just done a magnificent job, and it's clear to me she has a fantastic imagination and original way of thinking. I know that I will definitely be looking out for more books written by her!
Like I said earlier, I would definitely recommend this book to others. Although it is probably one more for the female readers, it does have a splash of mystery thrown in, and at times is quite thrilling, so may appeal to a wider audience.
In summary, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, and will be keeping an eye out for other books by Anne Fortier.
Thanks for reading.
I was originally drawn to this book when I noticed that Kate Mosse (author of Labyrinth and my favourite author) had praised the novel. I bought this book after I had just finished my A-Level examinations. After taking English- literature and being forced to read classic after classic novel (although I did enjoy them) I wanted an easy read that I could sink my teeth into. This book proved just the thing I needed. The storyline is great but was not over complex and the writing style flowed and was easy to read. I read this book in two days as couldn't put it down soon after starting it.
WHATS THE BOOK ABOUT (BLURB/SYNOPSIS):
When Julie Jacobs inherits a key to a safety deposit box in Siena, she is told it will lead her to an old family treasure. Soon she is launched on a precarious journey into the history of her ancestor Giulietta, whose love for a young man named Romeo, inspired Shakespeare's unforgettable story.
As Julie crosses paths with the families who turned medieval Sienna upside down, she begins to realize that the notorious curse - 'a plague on both your houses' - is still at work and that she is the next target. It seems that the only one who can save Julie from her fate is Romeo--but where is he?
Juliet is an unforgettable adventure that tries to rewrite the fate of the star-crossed lovers and reunite them at last.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Anne Fortier grew up in Europe, in Denmark mainly, and studied for her PHD there. After university she moved to the US, where she worked in film and television before writing Juliet, inspired by the very first Romeo and Juliet story which is set in Sienna (Like her novel). While completing her PHD Anne spent two terms at Corpus Christi College, Oxford, and there is where she met her husband.
Juliet is Anne Fortier's debut novel and the book has now been published in 34 countries.
With a reference to William Shakespeare at the very beginning of the book, I began to regret my decision to purchase this book as I felt it may be a modern re-telling of Shakespeare's' classic love story which I do love. I doubted this book could ever live up to his successful and beautiful play so what was the point of trying?
As I got further into the book I was pleasantly surprised by the outcome. This is not trying to retell Shakespeare's classic, in fact it partially rejects Shakespeare as the setting of the love story has been changed from the classic Verona to the medieval city of Sienna. Medieval and modern Sienna are described by Fortier so beautifully that not only draws the reader in and allows them to have a mental picture of the setting but makes me desperate to visit the place. Her descriptions are not of a great length but long enough to give you a feel of the place without thrusting an image into your head. From Fortier's words, each reader can shape their own little version of Sienna, which makes the book more appealing to me.
The characters of this book I found rather interesting. The central protagonist, Julie, was endearing and loveable. What was so lovely about her was that she never really saw herself how the reader saw her. She is a caring character that just needs affection and attention, unlike her twin sister whom needed to step out of the spotlight for once. I engaged a lot with the character of Julie, as having successful and bright older sister I know what it is like to feel in a sibling's shadow. This book allowed Julie to grow in confidence and realise her potential, which was genuinely lovely to read. Just like The author Jane Austen allowed the central protagonist in her novel Emma to grow as a character, so too has Fortier with Julie Jacobs.
The fact this book is split into the story of Julie in the present and that of Guilietta (her ancestor) in medieval Sienna was a treat I did not expect. We are not introduced to the character of Guilietta until several chapters in the book but when we are, every other chapter is concerned with medieval Sienna and Guillietta. This was good at first, but I never really found myself connecting with the character of Guillietta and would read through her chapters faster as I wanted to get back to the present day with Julie.
The ending of the book was something I defenitly did not expect and I was not that keen on. Without giving too much away I felt like this sudden introduction of danger was really ruining the story I was loving. It seemed weird to introduce new characters that would majorly influence the plot so late into a story. However the interesting turn of events with one particular characters identity was very intriguing. Although I did not like the ending as much as I had hoped I would, I very much agreed with the outcome of the story. So, to quote Shakespeare, all's well that ends well.
I would definitely recommend this novel for any fan of historical fiction or even Kate Mosse fans, as this has the same intriguing plot and story that you can expect from Mosse's books but with a little more light-heartedness. This book is a very easy read and I found myself hooked a chapter in. Being a romance I expected this book to be a typical chick-lit style novel. I was pleasantly surprised when this book kept me guessing and hooked. A real page turner, I found it difficult to put this book down. If you love history or even the story of Romeo and Juliet, you will LOVE this book! What a brilliant debut novel by Anne Fortier.
Author's web site: http://www.annefortier.com
You can buy this book from Amazon for £4.39.
I would give this book, 4 out of five stars as although I really enjoyed this book the ending was not what I was expecting.
I hope my review is helpful and thank you for taking the time to read it.
This review can be found on ciao under the name of wessexgirls14.
Anne Fortier's Juliet uses a popular formula for crossover chick lit/historical fiction; a young woman currently going through a rough time delves into her family history and unearths dark secrets and, quite likely, a love interest along the way. It's a shame that she does because a good story is a good story no matter what convoluted and unlikely means you use to tell it and it appears that in this case, Fortier has found a cracking story and used a dull contemporary parallel plot to present it.
Twenty-five year old twins Julie and Janice Jacobs were raised by their Aunt Rose in the States, having been orphaned as children in Italy. When Rose dies, Julie is astonished to learn that Rose has left the house and everything in it to Janice. So far she's lived her life in Janice's shadow; as teenagers Julie would stay at home with Aunt Rose, while Janice would be out with friends every evening; as adults Janice runs a successful dating agency while Julie earns a pittance teaching Shakespeare to kids at summer schools. So when Umberto, Rose's faithful old retainer - more like a family member than a servant - tells her that Aunt Rose has actually left her something, Julie is in no hurry to tell Janice. Umberto tells Julie that her real name is Giulietta Tolomei and he gives her the key to a safety deposit box stored in a bank of Siena. In a letter written in her final hours, Rose tells Julie that she must go to Siena where something valuable is waiting for her.
The contents of the safety deposit box appear, at first to be fairly unremarkable: a necklace and some old papers. But when Julie starts to work through the papers she makes an incredible discovery; the letters imply that long before Shakespeare penned his famous love story, the real Romeo and Juliet lived, not in Verona but in Siena and, what's more, Julie appears to be a descendant of Juliet. But Julie has a lot of work to do before she finally learns the truth and, before long, she realises that there are other people who seem desperate to know too.
"Romeo and Juliet" is one of my favourite Shakespeare plays and, although I knew a little of the theories that surround the story's origins, I was keen to learn more and, in that respect, this novel didn't disappoint. It is believed that Shakespeare likely read, or at least heard of one, or more, of several vaguely similar tales about a pair of tragic lovers and Fortier takes one of these as the basis for her story. The chapters alternate between contemporary and fourteenth century Siena.
The historical element of Juliet is excellent; the detail is well researched and Fortier excels in bringing to life the streets of old Siena. Some of this spills into the contemporary story but it's more laboured, such as in the scenes where the manager of the hotel Julie is staying in, vexed with her ignorance, gives her impromptu history lessons. Medieval Siena was split into districts called contrade and the inhabitants of each contrada were fiercely patriotic; each year there would take place a demanding horse-race - the palio - where the best rider from each contrada would compete to win the prestigious flag. Fortier's depiction of the narrow streets that suddenly open into beautiful squares lined with grand palazzi is highly atmospheric.
Where the novel falls down is in the attempts to make the contemporary story mirror the fourteenth century plot; in order to do this Fortier's story takes some silly and unlikely turns (Janice's sudden arrival in Siena is unintentionally hilarious). The idea of tracing the old story and comparing it with Shakespeare's version is interesting in its own right so to try to make the present day narration reflect the medieval story is wholly unnecessary - doesn't Ms Fortier have enough belief in her idea to present it more simply?
Another problem is that Fortier expends so much effort in painting this wonderful portrait of medieval Siena that in comparison her modern day characters are somewhat pale and insipid. Julie's tendency to say the wrong thing comes across as irritating rather than unfortunate and endearing and, as a result, it's rather difficult to care very much what happens to her. The contemporary romance is inevitable from the outset but this would be forgivable if only the hero was a good deal more dashing. Fortier fails to capture a spark between them and while I should have been anticipating fireworks, I had to make do with a few damp squibs.
Juliet is not a complete washout; had Fortier put more effort into her contemporary characters, or even not bothered to try to make the two stories follow each other so closely, it would have worked much better. Unfortunately with fairly long chapters it's not that easy to skip the modern day plot which I might have been tempted to do otherwise. The idea is brilliant, the execution patchy; a better editor might have made all the difference.
528 (long) pages