Book review: Juliet by Anne Fortier

What Works

I was wrong. Not completely wrong, but wrong enough. I expected Juliet: a Novel to be sappy, half-hearted, and predictible. Being pregnant, my sappy meter isn’t working 100%, but I suspect I would have enjoyed the book even were hormones not rushing through my system. And it was most definitely not half-hearted.

As for predictability, I could see from the first time he appeared who Romeo was going to be, and that certain characters in the opening would make a reappearance. But the way they appeared definitely surprised me.

And the ending! I was surprised at all the turns there. I love being surprised in books. It doesn’t happen much.

Paralleling the modern and ancient stories, which enhanced the meaning and importance of both. It would have been a weak story indeed if only the modern story was told.

New revelations at the end. They work because they’re hinted to–but left unsolved–through the rest of the story. Some authors try to insert new revelations at the end, but give us no foundation, no hint whatsoever of their existence. That’s cheating. Fortier did not cheat, for the most part.

The historical parts are believable. Historically accurate or not, they are believable.

What Doesn’t

Some parts were slow, some felt unnecessary. Like the fountain scene.

Keeping us on tenterhooks for so long about Romeo. I saw through that one immediately, so dragging out the revelation was neither interesting nor exciting.

Umberto’s story at the end was supposed to be exciting and interesting, but it slowed down the momentum, and so undermined itself.

The cover. I was half embarrassed to check the book out at the library, emblazoned with a giant red rose and looking, for all the world, like a romance novel (that half-respectable kind that still talks about steamy relationships even though it doesn’t have pictures of male models on the front cover). Not only is the rose irrelevant to the story, but it’s not a romance novel and most definitely not steamy.

This is a nitpicky thing, but the standard disclaimer on the copyright page–”not based on real places or people”–is a bit of a lie. Oh, there’s enough vagueness in the actual phrasing of the sentence to justify it, but when the author mentions (in the afterword) this character, who is a real person living today, running this hotel, which is a real hotel in Siena, that kind of undermines the whole “not based on real places or people” thing.

Recommendation

I don’t trust my pregnancy hormones enough to really recommend, but I did enjoy this book. A light, enjoyable read.

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