Tuesday, October 26, 2010
Book 50 - Juliet
The back cover blurb spoke of a modern tale of Romeo and Juliet, somehow merging with Shakespeare's classic tale of tragedy and passion. Anne Fortier had me at Shakespeare.
I fell further in love with Juliet after the one-page prologue. A few hundred words that set the tone of the book. I settled in to be swept away.
For the most part, I was.
Described as The Davinci Code for the modern woman, Juliet is part adventure, part romance. But unlike Dan Brown's runaway hit, Juliet is beautifully written. The pages come alive with descriptions that breathe with authenticity - I felt as though I was in Siena, Italy searching for my Romeo. My mouth watered as I imagined myself indulging in gelato, warm bread, salted prosciuttio ham. I recognized the architecture, the the way the locals spoke, Italy's mysterious hold. And I ached to go back to Italy and see all that I missed on my short tour.
The pacing of Juliet isn't meant to compete with Dan Brown-style thrillers, though the mystery is every bit as compelling, and perhaps from a literary standpoint, just as controversial as a book like The Davinci Code. Juliet challenges the notion that Romeo and Juliet is a work of fiction, but rather fictionalized accounts of a true story based on real people.
The novel begins with Julie Jacobs, a Shakespearean expert who has always been fascinated with Romeo and Juliet. Indeed, she can recite parts of it at will. But when her aunt Rose dies, Julie learns that most of her life has been a charade. For her real name is Guilettia Tolomei (Juliet) and her birth mother has left her a treasure she must find in Siena.
There, Juliet finds a chest of journals and old letters, mystery, and of course, her Romeo.
It's somewhat ironic that I began this book as I completed edits to ABSOLUTION and began working again on HEARTLESS. Juliet is told with parallel story lines (as I have done in ABSOLUTION), and the descriptions of Italy gave me hope that my own Italian exposition will bring the country to life for those who have not been there. In HEARTLESS, my protagonist finds clues to modern "cases" by studying the past...and Romeo and Juliet certainly comes into play at one point.
All that said, I'd be remiss if I didn't flag a bit of a saggy-taffy middle, a point somewhere in both story lines that dragged for a little too long. I'm accustomed to thriller and sometimes question whether my expectations for all literature hinge on pacing, but at the end of the day I need to feel compelled to keep turning pages. There were parts of Juliet I could have simply skipped through.
As well, pieces of the mystery were obvious, and while I don't mind figuring out some things ahead of time, there's a fine line between being predictable and making the reader feel smart. For me, Juliet tipped slightly towards predicability.
Without question, Fortier is a stunning writer. Sentences flowed beautifully, and the dialogue in some places was staggering - strong and with purpose. Considering dialogue is still one of my weak points, Juliet provides a solid case study in "what works."
I admit, given my quick fall, I wanted my love affair to last throughout Juliet. Close...but not quite. The passion I felt at the start dwindled to a slow burn by the end.
Still, a book worth getting lost in.
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