Wednesday, July 25, 2012


Juliet by Anne Fortier

Juliet is comparable to I, Mona Lisa—both are fascinating works of historical fiction. The novel reveals the historical events behind Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet; the lovers were actually based on Giulietta Tolomei and Romeo Marescotti of Siena, Italy during the 1340s. (Shakepeare’s 1597 play takes place in Verona, Italy, and he tweaked many of the names and events for his famous version. I was surprised to learn that he didn’t invent the story at all.)

In the book, 25-year-old Julie Jacobs is pulled into a 600-year-old mystery that involves a treasure and curse surrounding the families of Giulietta and Romeo. Julie continues the research of her deceased mother, who was obsessed with the curse that befell the ancient families for good reason—Giulietta was her ancestor. The plot alternates between the ancient and modern-day events and characters, which include Julie’s twin sister Janice and a handsome Italian named Alessandro.

Some of the dialogue is pretty vulgar, especially Janice’s obnoxious contributions. Julie’s character is complex but very likeable. But my favorite parts of the novel include the historical aspects regarding the Tolomei and Salimbeni families (alter egos of the Capulets and Montagues), medieval Italy, the bubonic plague, and the unfolding of the characters’ tragedy.

In all his poetic prose, I have always had a hard time connecting with Shakespeare. Although their interchanges are still flowery, Fortier’s Romeo and Giulietta are more three-dimensional and sympathetic characters—maybe because so much more of their background is revealed, and because the novel reads like a story and not a play (well, duh).

Thanks, Cinzia, for your eccellente book recommendations!

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