Summary and book reviews of Juliet by Anne Fortier

Juliet

by Anne Fortier

Juliet
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  • First Published:
    Aug 2010, 464 pages
    Paperback:
    Jul 2011, 464 pages

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Book Summary

Juliet, an ambitious, utterly engaging historical novel on the scale of The Thirteenth Tale and The Birth of Venus, follows a young woman who discovers that her family’s origins reach all the way back to literature’s greatest star-crossed lovers.

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 Anne Fortier comes a sweeping, beautifully written novel of intrigue and identity, of love and legacy, as a young woman discovers that her own fate is irrevocably tied—for better or worse—to literature’s greatest star-crossed lovers.

Excerpt
Juliet

Alack, alack, what blood is this which stains

The stony entrance of this sepulchre?

It has taken me a while to figure out where to start. You could argue that my story began more than six hundred years ago, with a highway robbery in medieval Tuscany. Or, more recently, with a dance and a kiss at Castello Salimbeni, when my parents met for the first time. But I would never have come to know any of this without the event that changed my life overnight and forced me to travel to Italy in search of the past. That event was the death of my great-aunt Rose.

It took Umberto three days to find me and tell me the sad news. Considering my virtuosity in the art of disappearing, I am amazed he succeeded at all. But then, Umberto always had an uncanny ability to read my mind and predict my movements, and besides, there were only so many Shakespeare summer camps in Virginia.

How long he stood there, watching the theater performance from the back of the room, I do not know. I was backstage...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
Reading Group Questions and Discussion Topics for Juliet:
  1. In Anne Fortier's novel Juliet, Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet casts a long shadow over the lives of the main characters, past and present. Looking at the "original" story of Romeo and Giulietta set in 1340, consider in what ways Fortier uses Shakespeare's great tragedy as a model for her own work, and in what ways she departs from it.
  2. Discuss the ways in which the bonds of sisterhood—for good and for ill—are central to the novel. Why do you think Fortier introduces this element into her story?
  3. Although there are surprising revelations about all the characters in the novel, perhaps the most shocking has to do with Umberto, Aunt Rose's faithful butler. ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

If you're looking for a delightful book to cap off your summer, BookBrowse readers recommend Juliet:

Whether it was purely Fortier's story telling power or my love of all things Shakespeare, Italy and ghostly - three chapters in and I was hooked! As the story unfolded and switched between present day and ancient Siena I couldn't turn the pages quick enough to find out what twist the story would take next - none of which were even remotely predictable (Glenn H). The author had just the right amount of history, romance, mystery and secrets to keep me interested and to keep my mind working to unravel the secrets (Shirley F).   (Reviewed by BookBrowse First Impression Reviewers).

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Media Reviews

Kirkus Reviews

The promising premise bogs down too often in repetition and excess verbiage.

Library Journal

...more in line with Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code (but much better written!), with its hunt for clues to a secret.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Fortier navigates around false clues and twists, resulting in a dense, heavily plotted love story that reads like a Da Vinci Code for the smart modern woman.

Reader Reviews

Dorothy T.

Great fun!
This novel has suspense, intrigue, romance, and more twists and turns than the underground of Siena! Anne Fortier has a gift for the genre and a skill with words.

Shirley F. (Franksville, WI)

Juliet has it all!
It's hard to believe that this is a debut novel. The characters are so well developed, the plot is engaging and believable and the essence of Siena and the Contraldos are inherently a part of the story. I loved going between contemporary Julie and ...   Read More

Rita K. (Bannockburn, IL)

Juliet by Anne Fortier
I knew I would like this book when I read it was on the scale of The Thirteenth Tale. 'Juliet' was very intriguing, the way Fortier kept switching back and forth between centuries really kept my interest. Didn't want to put it down. Definitely will...   Read More

Kathy S. (Coral Gables, FL)

Gets better and better
I have to admit, when I first starting reading, I thought I had it figured out and was going to be bored for the rest of the book. I was WRONG ... I liked being surprised with new facts throughout the book, and especially since not pulled out of ...   Read More

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The Appeal of Doomed Lovers

Search the web for "famous love stories" and you'll find that most sites rank Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet in 1st place. Considering how few of the general populous will have actually read or watched a performance of Shakespeare's arguably most famous play in recent years it seems likely that what keeps this pair of star-crossed lovers in everyone's minds is not Shakespeare's work itself but the countless adaptations, parodies and representations of it since it was first performed in the late 16th century. In fact, it's difficult to imagine a single literary work that has inspired more artistic endeavors. Tchaikovsky's overture, Prokofiev's ballet and West Side Story are just the tip of the iceberg - various sources estimate there are ...

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