Usually when I think of a book being described as "epic", that book is a lengthy piece of fantasy or a nonfictional history tome. However, I think "epic" is great word to describe Juliet by Anne Fortier.

The main story is set in modern day with heroine Julie Jacobs discovering secrets about her ancestors after the death of her dear Aunt Rose. Julie learns that her real name is Guilietta Tolomei and several generations ago a relative bearing the same name was a real star-crossed lover whose life became legend and eventually inspired Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet.

Set in Siena, Italy - rather than Verona - Julie's story alternates with that of the Guilietta Tolomei in the 1340's. The history and culture of this story-within-the-story are brought to life in beautiful detail. The tale that is unraveled is presented as historical fact, bearing only faint resemblance to the popular play it evolved into.

As Julie unravels clues to her family's ancient past, she finds that the parts of the story Shakespeare got right may have huge implications for her future. Along with a "plague" that seems to have cursed her family for several generations, Julie wonders if she is destined to fall for a Romeo of her own. She can only hope that this time the tale will have a happier ending.

I really enjoyed this story and found the rich landscape of Italy to be enchanting in both the present and past portions of the book. Though there were a few spells when the narrative seemed to drag, for the most part I found the story intriguing and enjoyable. Fortier did a great job of creating a precursor to Romeo and Juliet and tying it nicely to a modern story. Even with such well-known, frequently reinvented source material, Fortier managed to take a new spin on Shakespeare, and Juliet is a book to be enjoyed by fans of the bard as well as those looking for a freshly original work.

7 Response to "Juliet"

  1. Alexis @ Reflections of a Bookaholic says:
    June 7, 2011 at 8:39 PM

    This sounds fantastic. I've added it to my list. Great review!

  2. Anonymous Says:
    June 7, 2011 at 10:00 PM

    I saw this book when it was first published and salivated over the premise. Then I read the first few pages and something about it didn't jell with me. I debated on whether or not to read on and see if my feelings changed. Perhaps I was too hasty?

  3. Danielle Zappavigna says:
    June 8, 2011 at 1:41 AM

    I've had this on my list for ages, thanks for reminding me to check this one out soon :-)

  4. Casey (The Bookish Type) says:
    June 8, 2011 at 12:52 PM

    I enjoyed this one as well -- especially the flashbacks. Romeo, Romeo wherefore art thou, Romeo?

  5. Jen (@ Jens Book Closet) says:
    June 9, 2011 at 1:23 PM

    It sounds good. I do like a good twist on historical fiction and this sounds like a mesh of historical and contemporary. I've never been a huge Romeo and Juliet fan as I prefer my books to have a little less romantic death and a little more happiness, but this sounds great.

    In the Closet With a Bibliophile

  6. lisa :) says:
    June 9, 2011 at 1:33 PM

    Alexis - Hope you enjoy it!

    Stephanie - Hard to say. It did take a while to really grip me. I kept flip flopping between which story (present or past) I liked more. If neither story drew you in though, it would be hard to stick with it.

    mz - Let me know what you think when you get around to it!

    Casey - I think it would have been really easy for Fortier to have the past portion of the story be a simple retelling of R&J, so I think I appreciated her variations from Shakespeare all the more! I could definitely picture her narrative being the inspiration for Shakespeare!

  7. lisa :) says:
    June 9, 2011 at 1:34 PM

    Jen - I'm not sure if this is the best choice if you don't really like R&J, but it does vary enough from the story that you may still enjoy it!

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