Monday, February 16, 2015

Juliet by Anne Fortier

juliet Juliet by Anne Fortier
Released: January 1st 2010
Read: March 2013
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Source: bought/hardcover

Goodreads | Amazon

Twenty-five-year-old Julie Jacobs is heartbroken over the death of her beloved Aunt Rose. But the shock goes even deeper when she learns that the woman who has been like a mother to her has left her entire estate to Julie’s twin sister. The only thing Julie receives is a key—one carried by her mother on the day she herself died—to a safety-deposit box in Siena, Italy.

This key sends Julie on a journey that will change her life forever—a journey into the troubled past of her ancestor Giulietta Tolomei. In 1340, still reeling from the slaughter of her parents, Giulietta was smuggled into Siena, where she met a young man named Romeo. Their ill-fated love turned medieval Siena upside-down and went on to inspire generations of poets and artists, the story reaching its pinnacle in Shakespeare’s famous tragedy.

But six centuries have a way of catching up to the present, and Julie gradually begins to discover that here, in this ancient city, the past and present are hard to tell apart. The deeper she delves into the history of Romeo and Giulietta, and the closer she gets to the treasure they allegedly left behind, the greater the danger surrounding her—superstitions, ancient hostilities, and personal vendettas. As Julie crosses paths with the descendants of the families involved in the unforgettable blood feud, she begins to fear that the notorious curse—“A plague on both your houses!”—is still at work, and that she is destined to be its next target. Only someone like Romeo, it seems, could save her from this dreaded fate, but his story ended long ago. Or did it? (from Goodreads)

I need to say something before I start this review. I detest Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. Despise with a burning passion. And what makes me hate it more is its immense popularity and spot in "best romance of all time." Give me a break - it wasn't a romance. It was about a whiny little twit named Romeo who falls in lust at first sight with the gorgeous, naive, and love-sick puppy Juliet. They literally interact twice before marriage, both times talking about how beautiful the other is (great basis for a relationship), and then kill themselves because they think the other is dead. WHAT? I'd buy the whole "our families ruined us" thing if Romeo wasn't such a pompous jerk, striding around Verona showing off his manhood by getting into stupid sword fights with his allegedly beloved's family members which eventually gets him banished. It's stupid, not tragic. Also - something that Anne Fortier's character pointed out - what kind of man kills himself with poison while his wife kills herself with his freaking dagger. Man up, Romeo. Anyway, I think we've established how much I can't stand this ridiculous play.

So imagine my shock when this book, Juliet, ends up on my favorites shelf! Everything that I hated about Shakespeare was made right in this book.

The book centers around Julie, a descendent of the original Juliet, Giulietta Tolomei. The narrative goes back and forth between the present Julie's first person POV and the stories she finds about the past. So the real Romeo and Giulietta's story is told in full in the book. This is where Fortier made right all the things that pissed me off about Shakespeare's. This Romeo totally manned up, and Giulietta was bad ass, too! No whining, no lust at first sight. These two characters actually fell in love, like the real deal. These two had me weeping openly and shamelessly and loudly with their story. That, among other things, is why this book landed a spot on my favorites list.

Now, back to the present and Julie's story (her real name is Giulietta too and she is referred to as such for most of the book, but for the sake of this review I'm calling her Julie). Julie's story is both similar and vastly different from her ancestor's, and I love the way that Fortier paralleled the two to show that. She finds her own romance, of course, and watching that romance unfold was the other reason why this book is a favorite. It was a fast romance, maybe a little too fast for a certain taste, but at the same time it was still believable. And once all the secrets are revealed, even the pace makes perfect sense (at least to me). I adored Julie and Alessandro together. It was innocent and beautiful andandand *babbles incoherently*. It wasn't just this romance that happened. It HAPPENED because it was both fate and reality dictated by choice. I love how those two aspects - fate and choice - were juxtaposed and made the same at the same time.

Then, if the two romance plots aren't enough to sweep you off your feet, there is also a mystery, a treasure hunt, a search for identity, reconciliation and redemption all happening at the same time. And it was all brilliantly laid out.

And the prose! Oh my, that language! I can't... It was too beautiful for words. It may have been the best I've ever read. Period. Fortier's style, simply put, is exquisite. And the voices she gave her characters were so individual. A strange quirk about me - I usually read in a British accent, unless the story is so American that it's impossible. I blame Harry Potter. Anyway, while I was reading Juliet, I read the American characters with an American accent and the Italian characters with an Italian accent. I'm not all that familiar with an Italian accent, but their voices in the dialogue were so clear that I couldn't help it! It was awesome.

I only had one problem with this book and that was the issue with the villains. The true villains aren't revealed until the end, and Julie is strung along not knowing for sure who to trust and who to put the blame on. That's fine, no problems there. It's all so beautifully convoluted until the end, then it gets too murky and too info dumpy and a little too sudden. When the true villain is revealed I felt like I didn't know them, that I concentrated too long on this other person that this twist is out of left field and not in a good way. The problem was that I didn't know the villain, and I think it is extremely important in any book that we know the antagonists personally just as well as we know the protagonists. In the matter of one page the book went from sweeping, epic romance (and I mean romance in both love and the original literary definition of a romance novel,) with this Renaissance feel to it, to this strangely detached crime/mob boss story. It was too sudden and too out of place with the rest of the novel that it rubbed me the wrong way. The series of events makes sense, but the feeling was all wrong. I felt like I was reading a different book. In that 40 pages or so none of the rest of the book really mattered, and I thought that for the climax of the novel the rest of the book should have mattered and should have kept the same tone. Thankfully, the climax ended (ie the climax of the climax) in the same tone as the rest of the novel and all was right in reading world and the last chapter wrapped everything up with the prettiest bow possible and I was left supremely happy.

In conclusion, despite what annoyed me, this was a fantastic novel that blew me away page after page, and I am so glad I was able to find this book at the antique shop near my house because I want this book on my shelf forever.

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