Didi's Reviews > Juliet

Juliet by Anne Fortier
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's review
Oct 17, 2011

it was ok

This is one of those books in which a present day character uncovers a mystery from the past, and the historical story unfolds parallel to the present day story until the two dovetail somehow. I tend to be a sucker for these kinds of novels (see The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova, Possession by A.S. Byatt or the novels of Kate Mosse). Sadly, ‘Juliet’ is a poor example of this kind of novel.

The premise is kind of fun and I give the book two stars based mainly on the premise and plot: orphaned Julie Jacobs’ great aunt dies, leaving her a cryptic letter and a key to a safety-deposit box in a bank in Siena. Julie goes to Siena, opens her safety-deposit box and embarks on a historical scavenger hunt in which she learns the “true” story of Romeo and Juliette, which took place in Siena, and discovers that she may be descended from the original “Giulietta.”

Unfortunately, the book wasn’t very well written. The author is not a native speaker of English, and I’m afraid it shows. The first person narration and dialogue was a little off somehow. It was inappropriately casual, given the subject matter. I think the author was aiming for a snarky “modern” narration, but it didn’t feel appropriate in the context of a literary/ historical mystery involves Shakespeare’s famous play. Also the colloquialisms were not quite right.

On top of that, the historical story is told in a similar voice as the first-person modern story. Julie discovers a number of Renaissance documents- letters, journals, etc- through which we learn the historical story. In books like Possession or The Historian, such documents are written very differently from the modern story, and written in the “voice” of the “author” of such journals and letters. The author here doesn’t accomplish that. Strangely, most, perhaps all, of the historical story is told in the “journal” of an artist who lived in Siena during the “original” story, yet it’s not written like a journal. It’s written in the third person, with no explanation of how the artist knew about the incidents that occurred when he was not present.

The book didn’t seem emotionally honest, or even accurate. Julie has a twin sister, Janice, who’s been mean and abusive to Julie her whole life. First of all, I simply did not believe that. While I’m sure relationships between twins are not always flowers and rainbows, I find it hard to believe that twins who were orphans would not have some positive closeness in their relationship. From what I’ve observed, having a difficult relationship with a sibling (twin or not) is much more painful and complicated than it was portrayed in this book. Further, Julie’s attitude toward Janice was more like that toward an annoying neighbor or cousin, not the most significant person in her life. At some point the sisters become reconciled, which did not feel believable either. Likewise, Julie did not seem very affected by discovering long lost relatives or the various apparent betrayals that occurred in the story.

Generally, I found the characterization in this book pretty weak. None of the characters, particularly the present day characters, felt like real people to me.

Finally, the storytelling was just too on the nose for me. Julie generally tells her business to just about everyone she meets, even people she doesn’t trust. Whenever Julie has some new question to uncover, she finds a document that spells out the answer for her. Apparently everyone in Siena has some family tie to the ancient family feud and is just as concerned about it today as if it happened yesterday. I’m sure Italians are very proud of their heritage and history, but the conversations in this book were simply not plausible.

This book was pretty disappointing. It had a neat idea, but terrible execution.
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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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kari Great review.

Carrie Cloud This is exactly how I felt about this book - thanks for articulating it for me!

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