Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Review: "Juliet" by Anne Fortier

When Julie Jacobs' aunt, the only mother that she has ever known, dies she leaves behind a key to a safety deposit box located in Siena, Italy, and a note alluding to the fact that the things locked away in the deposit box are the key to an old family treasure. Julie leaves behind her twin sister, whom she has never gotten along with, and her Americanized name, and leaves immediately for Italy.

Once she arrives in Italy and she begins the formidable task of uncovering the secrets that her late mother had hidden, Julia (now Giulietta) finds out that there is a possibility that she is related to the family of Juliet, whose star-crossed love with Romeo was the basis for Shakespeare's famous play. Once she comes to the realization that all is not what it initially appers to be in Siena, she is in too far to stop and becomes a part of an elaborate plot to right wrongs that were done long ago.

I'll admit two things right away. First, it took me about 100 pages to really get into the plot. There is a lot of backstory and explaination involved, and at points I was tempted to stop and pick it up again at a later time. Second, I found the parallels between the modern day Julie and the historical Giulietta quite annoying at first- one of my bookish pet peeves is when a modern story and a historical story, both being told in the same book, practically mirror one another. It makes me wish that the author would pick one story and tell it, because there is no point in telling two virtually identical stories.

I have a third confession to make. I'm really glad that I stuck this one out despite my initial misgivings. Once I had truly gotten into the story it flew by, and the parallels that I found annoying at first became more relevant as the story proceeded.

What strikes me as most memorable about this story is the fact that while it is unapologetically fictional, Anne Fortier creates a backstory about the inspiration for Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet that is entirely believable. Fortier's attention to detail is commendable, and that made Juliet a pleasure to read. When I was done reading the book I had to turn to the "Author's Note" to confirm that the story I had read was, in fact, fictional. Fortier, along with her mother, had certainly done her homework, and the majority of the places and people mentioned in the book were factual, but the overall story remained fiction. Fortier also mentions that Shakespeare's version of Romeo & Juliet was not the first one, and that he had merely based his work on plays by earlier authors.

Rich in detail, thoroughly researched, and filled with fascinating characters, Juliet was a pleasure to read. I highly recommend it to fans of historical fiction, historical romanctic fiction, or those with an interest in Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet.

Browse inside Juliet
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Rating: 3.75 stars out of 5
Challenges: 2010 100+ Reading Challenge, New Author Challenge 2010, The Canadian Book Challenge 4

Thank-you to HarperCollins Canada for sending me this review copy in exchange for my honest opinion.


  1. Call me crazy, but that cover really isn't working for me -- and that would turn me off the book right away. I love Shakespeare and Romeo & Juliet, though, and any parallels between a modern story and that classic would draw me in!

    And I definitely know where you're coming from regarding authors telling two identical stories in one book -- and how pointless it is. Well said!

  2. I have read other great reviews of this book and I can't wait to read it myself. I bought it at Costco weeks ago and I think I will pick it up soon. Thanks for the honest review!

  3. I'm so glad you enjoyed this one! Unfortunately, it didn't really work for me at all. I think the things that irritated you about it at the beginning continued to irritate me through the entire book.

  4. Hi Jonita!

    I nodded my head while reading "Once she comes to the realization that all is not what it initially appears to be in Siena, she is in too far to stop and becomes a part of an elaborate plot to right wrongs that were done long ago." Well said! I didn't have any trouble getting into it at all and I must concur that Juliet certainly is rich in detail and thoroughly researched!

  5. I don't know I thought the other twin sister was really going to get on my nerves...

  6. Great review. I really enjoyed this book and didn't have trouble getting into it. I rather liked the mirroring of the stories. I'm glad you stuck it out and that you enjoyed it in the end.

    I thought Fortier story was very believable and didn't wait to finish the book before flipping to the Author's Note at the back.

  7. I usually don't like a second story either and when I discovered the novel was formatted this way, I thought I wouldn't enjoy it. I was pleasantly surprised though and still loved it! Glad you stuck it out and weren't as disappointed as you thought you would be in the end!