Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Book 50 - Juliet

I fell in love with Juliet before I turned the first page.

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.

Hey! Did you click the link yesterday? Please help Candy make a difference. Just $1 can change a life.

The Book In My Bag Today: Fantasy in Death, J.D. Robb


  1. I hate Shakespeare.

    But somehow I love the modern twists on them. This sounds a little flowery for my tastes, but interesting.

  2. I agree, DONNA. A bit flowery for your norm, but well written. I love Shakespeare...and some of the modern adaptations. But I admit, Romeo and Juliet has always been my favourite.

  3. I love most of Shakespeare works...mostly Hamlet, Macbeth and the like...Hey, I am the Zombiemom so anything with a bloody death is good for me :) I could never get into Romeo and Juliet...it was to much of a love story for my taste...but your explanation of how Fortier tells about Italy is intriguing...I may just pick this one up some day. I am reading Absolution and your description of Italy has intrigued me :)

  4. Love the cover of that book and the premise. Also, love your new template!

  5. That's a beautiful book cover! And I love your review! Hard hitting and honest. It's what we need more of!

    (And thanks for visiting my blog. You rock!)

  6. Pacing is key for me too, though I don't mind the odd wander off track here and there.

  7. KAREN - Not even the Leonardo DiCaprio Romeo & Juliet? I quite enjoyed that one! LOL In all seriousness, I think Fortier does an amazing job of putting you IN Italy...I hope Absolution comes somewhere close!

    JAN - thanks! I'd recommend the book.

    That's sweet, JKB. I visit your blog most days....just selective in when I comment :-)

    VENOM - I'd recommend wandering to the book store or library for this one, then :-)

  8. wow- thanks for this review! I love shakespear and it sounds like this is a really great read material wise even if the emotion doesn't hold throughout. I'd love to give it a shot! Thanks!

  9. Dawn, great review! I'm a sucker for books that are beautifully written, not so more into traditional love stories, but this sounds like something with a little mystery and thrills.

  10. I think I'd be interested to read this book!

  11. CREEPY - maybe I should start sending you books! I know it takes a while for you to get them.... Do you have Wicked Lovely yet?

    Thanks CRIMEY, there is enough mystery to keep the love story somewhat tamed.

    WW - I think you would too!

  12. I sooooo want this one! Putting it on my library list right now. I have total book amnesia once I walk through the doors of the library.

  13. VICKI - Send me your address. I'll mail it to you. I'm done and I don't think any of my local friends want to read it!