Gemma's Reviews > Juliet

Juliet by Anne Fortier
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Feb 16, 2012

it was ok

This book started out with a good hook; the sad-sack Julie is viciously cut out of her dead Aunt’s will and her sister gets everything. But Julie gets a key to a safety deposit box in Siena that will be—in a completely obvious literal and metaphorical sense—the key to her past.

I was with Fortier at this point. I couldn’t really get a handle on Julie yet as a character but there were still about 400 pages to go so I thought the book would get there. That’s where the problems for me started. It seemed like I kept turning pages and nothing was happening that made me interested in Julie or her quest. I don’t believe a main character has to be likable to make a story work. However they should be interesting in some way; intelligent, clever, tough, stubborn. Julie was nothing. I think Fortier wanted to create sympathy for Julie by making her the meek, lost counterpart to her outgoing, abrasive twin sister. But instead Julie was presented as someone with no personality who was just letting life carry her along; she has no career, massive debt, and her participation in war protests is only a result of her desire to prove to her sister she can do something.

It just didn’t work. There’s no reason to care about Julie. The story is told through her point of view, and since Julie doesn’t have a real point of view, or at least not one that she can’t be talked out of in two sentences, it makes the book read flat. Her emotions toward the events in the story do not read true because Fortier never gives us a sense of what is driving them. At best she seems ambivalent toward discovering the truth about her past. She just doesn’t have anything better to do.

The twin sister is horribly characterized. If Fortier wanted to make her evil, she should have just gone for it. You can have a character who is a jerk and give them redeeming qualities. Janice seemed to have multiple personality disorder. I think Fortier was trying to create a character who was headstrong and street smart but also protective, but if this was the case it did not come off. She was very mean and blunt, and then suddenly she was loving and protective. It did not read like a true person. I found it unbelievable when she suddenly popped up in Siena. I also found her disguise hard to swallow. One of the few physical descriptions we get of a main character is that Janice is curvy; Julie asks her in the beginning of the book when she got her most recent addition, referring to her chest. So could a buxom woman put on a leather jacket and pass for a man? I’m not so sure. I also don’t buy into the idea that she knows how to drive a motorcycle. There is some mention of Janice being interested in cars, but how does that translate to riding a motorcycle? We are not in Janice’s head, we are in Julie’s, so Janice’s true thoughts can only come out through her dialogue. And that was the biggest problem of the book for me.

Janice’s dialogue is so jarringly off base it made me wince. I’m a 25 year old American woman, I’m almost offended; creepers, Cocco-Nut, Womeo, driving the love bus into cheery town—that last one was part of the most ridiculous sentence I’ve ever heard. Many have pointed out that Fortier is not American, but I cannot let her off that easily. As an author, you should understand that your strength is not American slang, and don’t use it. I think it would have been more successful if Fortier had written it as she would have said it in her native langue, and then strip it of any colloquialisms.

But it’s not just Janice. The modern day dialogue between all the characters was stilted and jarring and came off as very immature. Usually characters had no more than two or three lines of dialogue at a time, and it never carried the plot forward.

The love story between Julie and Alessandro is laughable, or better yet, invisible. Fortier did a pretty decent job building a little tension between these two, but she gives no real reason why Julie, who never seems to have had a relationship in her life, suddenly falls in love with him. There’s never a reason for him to fall for her either. She never shows any kind of pluck or intelligence or charm that would have attracted him to her. At least none that felt believable. And their strange marriage ceremony and wedding night was just bizarre. I think you can successfully write around a sex scene, but after so much was made of Julie being a virgin, and so many references to virginity throughout, it felt like that scene should have been given more weight. I also find it hard to believe that a woman of 25 wouldn’t have a deep reaction to losing her virginity.

The mystery part of the story was too drawn out and convoluted to really follow, as were some of the final “wrap up” conclusions.

I found the historical parts of the novel to be the best written, however I did have issues. The 1340 is supposed to be a journal entry but it doesn’t read like one. It seemed like omnipotent narration. I think she dwelled too much on them at the expense of characterizing her modern day characters. The “real” story of Romeo and Juliet is interesting, however the problem with spending so much time on it is we already know the end. Even if we don’t know the details, we know more or less what happens. What we don’t know is what will happen to the modern day characters. I found myself rushing through the historical parts in the hopes that something interesting would happen between the modern day characters. It never really did.

The end was predictable and it did not feel very modern. Julie just drifts through life until a man saves her and marries her. One author once suggested to aspiring writers, don’t be satisfied with using your first idea. Try to give it a little more of a twist. A lot of this novel, especially the end, felt like it was the first idea. I would warn people before they started this novel that it’s not a very rewarding read.
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Karlyn This is exactly how I felt while reading the book. Disappointed!

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