Juliet, Anne Fortier

Ballantine Books, 2011, 461 pages (paperback)

Sigh. Sometimes all a girl needs is a proper romance novel. And you’ll remember this one from my fall TBR, meaning I had high hopes for it. The good news is that I wasn’t let down. While Juliet definitely falls  into the romance category, it could also easily be called a mystery, thriller, or historical fiction, which is what I like most about it.

Both plots – yes, there are two – are twisty and complicated. One follows our modern-day American heroine, Julie Jacobs who, along with her twin sister Janice, was orphaned by shady circumstances roughly twenty years ago when their family lived in Italy. Upon the event of their great-aunt Rose’s death, Julie is let in on a family secret, leading her back to Siena, Italy to do some major digging. Breaking up the progression of this plot line, is that of Giulietta Tolomei, a young country girl living in Siena in 1340, and her quick and ill-fated romance with one Romeo Marescotti. Six-hundred years apart, the two story lines nevertheless begin to intertwine in the most fascinating and page-turning ways.  To quote an interesting character: “Everything we say is a story. But nothing we say is just a story.” What’s real and what’s legend are frequently conflated.What follows is a lot of intrigue, treasure hunting, chase scenes, not quite knowing who to trust, and plenty of gasping and shouting from the reader (that is, if you’re as interactive with your novels as I am). With chapters flip-flopping back and forth between the two ‘Juliet’s, I was kept on the edge of my seat for the entire 450-or-so pages. I have a few minor complaints, but on the whole this is prime escapist fiction, perfect for anyone who enjoys a modern departure from classic Shakespeare. Without giving away endings (because you will be guessing till the end), the story, while feeling comfortingly familiar, is at the same time new.

Wherefore Art Thou, Perfect Screen Adaptation?

Romeo and Juliet through the (recent) ages.

I await the day that Fortier’s Juliet will be turned into film. The book, being so cinematic, is a natural candidate for a major female-driven blockbuster. And, forgive me if you disagree, but haven’t we enough straight-forward film adaptations of Romeo and Juliet? In tenth grade my English class was introduced to the 1968 version, already begging comparisons to the modernized Leo-tastic version of ’96 which we were more familiar with. Now, apparently with a new generation arose the need for yet another, and so we have the 2013 version released last month (which, I’ll admit, I will watch and probably love). To me it’s puzzling and a little pathetic that, even despite all these versions turning out the same, I always hope for a less-tragic ending. Does anyone out there feel the same way?