Title: O, Juliet
Author: Robin Maxwell
Release Date: February 2, 2010
Publisher: NAL Trade
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: 4 out of 5
Juliet Capalletti is a romantic at heart. Though custom is for the women of her time to be demure and soft-spoken, she has a brain that she’s not afraid to use. When she marries, she wants it to be for true love, not just for convenience. One night, she meets a mysterious man at a party, one who inspires her very soul, and her life will never again be the same.
O, Juliet is a re-telling of William Shakespeare’s play Romeo and Juliet. Robin Maxwell takes this classic tale of star crossed lovers and reinvents it, making both Romeo and Juliet more understandable and easier to relate to.
One of the problems I’ve always had with the play is the speed with which Romeo and Juliet fall in love and decide to marry. I understand that it was meant to be seen in a theater, so clearly a long romance wouldn’t be feasible, but for modern audiences it’s more difficult to swallow. Add to that the fact that Romeo is talking about a different woman at beginning of the play (Rosaline) – that makes it even harder to believe that Romeo and Juliet fall in love so quickly, to the point where they’d be willing to kill themselves rather than live without the other.
Maxwell makes some changes in order to make the story more relevant to modern readers. She changes the setting from Verona to Florence, and makes the characters older – Juliet is 18 at the beginning of O, Juliet, rather than 16. There is also quite a bit of backstory for both Romeo and Juliet. It’s clear why their families are feuding, and the timeline isn’t rushed. There is time for their romance to blossom, for them to fall in love with one another.
Juliet herself is a very well-developed, unique character. I loved that Maxwell made her a writer. First, poetry gave Romeo and Juliet something to bond over, and second, it gave Juliet a level of depth that she doesn’t necessarily have in the play. She’s a smart, savvy woman who doesn’t accept that she should be subordinate to others just because of her gender. She wants better things for herself and fights for them.
O, Juliet isn’t without some flaws – for example, Jacopo, the man Juliet is supposed to marry, is a bit of a caricature, he’s so evil and ugly. But that doesn’t change the fact that this is a creative interpretation that is both enjoyable and very quick to read. I definitely recommend it for any fan of historical fiction.