Author: Anne Fortier
Release Date: August 24, 2010
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Genre: Historical Fiction, Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 3 out of 5
When her Aunt Rose dies, Julie Jacobs is bereft. After all, Aunt Rose is really all she has left in the world since her parents are dead. Julie does have a twin sister, Janice, but she’s so flighty and self-involved, Julie might as well be alone. It comes as a shock, then, when Janice is left Rose’s entire estate, while Julie gets one measly key, a passport with the name Giulietta Tolomei, and instructions to go to Siena, Italy. Once there, Julie (or is it Giulietta?) begins to delve into the past and understand her connection to the original story of Romeo and Juliet.
I had mixed feelings regarding Juliet before I even started the book. I’ve never really been captured by the story of Romeo and Juliet, so I wasn’t that interested in it when I first heard about the novel. But then it was prominently featured at a panel at Book Expo America and it did sound interesting, so I changed my mind. By the time I got around to Juliet, I was really excited to read it.
Unfortunately, Juliet didn’t work for me as well as I’d hoped. Part of the reason was my original hesitation – I’m just not that interested in the “romantic” story of Romeo and Juliet. After all, they were just a couple of teenagers that decided suddenly that they were in love and got caught up in the feud between their families, and then (in my opinion) drastically overreacted to their circumstances. Therefore, when Julie became convinced there was a curse upon her house and her story began to mirror that of Juliet’s, I couldn’t help but roll my eyes.
The novel also has a thriller feel, which surprised me. From the subject matter and the way it was described, I expected a very literary suspense story, in the vein of The Historian. Therefore, the pace of the book didn’t really sit well with me. Additionally, I just found the entire thing difficult to believe. The novel gets stranger and stranger as the novel progresses, to the point where I just couldn’t go along with it anymore. The coincidences, the setups, the discoveries – it just became too much for me.
Juliet does show promise, and I think if Anne Fortier tried her hand at a more literary, less Da Vinci Code-esque (Publisher’s Weekly’s comparison, not mine) novel, it would have worked much better for me. I did appreciate Fortier’s historical take on the legend. She did a wonderful job bringing medieval Siena to life and I thought her interpretation of the story was fascinating. It was the modern day part that I had trouble with, and that is the majority of the book.
In the end, I was very disappointed in Juliet, especially after all the great reviews I’d read. There was a lot going on, and I’m not sure it all tied together well. However, the novel showed enough promise to where I’ll keep a look out for anything else Anne Fortier writes, and would be willing to pick it up. If you’re a huge fan of the Romeo and Juliet story, I wouldn’t hesitate to read this book. If you’re ambivalent, though, I’m not sure I can recommend it, but most others probably will!