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. Read more...
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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.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2010-05-31
- Reviewer: Staff
Fortier bobs and weaves between Shakespearean tragedy and popular romance for a high-flying debut in which American Julie Jacobs travels to Siena in search of her Italian heritage--and possibly an inheritance--only to discover she is descended from 14th-century Giulietta Tomei, whose love for Romeo defied their feuding families and inspired Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. Julie's hunt leads her to the families' descendants, still living in Siena, still feuding, and still struggling under the curse of the friar who wished a plague on both their houses. Julie's unraveling of the past is assisted by a Felliniesque contessa and the contessa's handsome nephew, and complicated by mobsters, police, and a mysterious motorcyclist. To understand what happened centuries ago, in the previous generation, and all around her, Julie relies on relics: a painting, a journal, a dagger, a ring. Readers enjoy the additional benefit of antique texts alternating with contemporary narratives, written in the language of modern romance and enlivened by brisk storytelling. 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. (Aug.)
Identity lost and found
One need not be a devotee of Shakespeare to appreciate Romeo and Juliet. The iconic love story, based on Italian lore, caught fire with audiences in the 1590s; more than 400 years later, forbidden romance and family drama resonate just as clearly with audiences today.
Author Anne Fortier puts her own twist on the tale of “star-cross’d lovers” with her debut, Juliet. She brings to light events of the 14th century, starring feuding families Tolomei and Salimbeni—characters who are believed to have inspired Shakespeare’s Capulets and Montagues. Chapters oscillate between Romeo and Juliet in the year 1340 and the book’s main character, the contemporary Julie Jacobs.
Julie, who makes her living directing Shakespearian drama at a summer camp in Virginia, commences the adventure of a lifetime when she receives news that the aunt who raised her has passed away. Julie’s inheritance is a letter, penned by Aunt Rose, that alludes to a fortune awaiting her in Italy if she is willing to treasure hunt. Equipped with a key to a safety deposit box that once belonged to her mother, Julie heads for the Tuscan hills. The letter cautions her to travel under the guise of her given name, Giulietta Tolomei.
Julie’s long-lost identity is news to her. The further she digs into her family history and uncovers her relationship to the Juliet that inspired the litany of literature, the more thrilling her quest becomes. In Siena, she is pursued by thugs, duped and drugged, and strung along into her own seemingly ill-fated romance. There’s no end to the list of ruffians who pop up, convinced that Julie knows the whereabouts of ancient riches.
Fortier’s ambitious story merges past with present in a rare feat of seamless writing. Based on historical fact and poetic license, Juliet is a fast-paced, sumptuous read. Fortier’s razor-sharp framing of time and insight into her characters make the wholly original Juliet so much more than just another adaptation.
Watch our video interview with Anne Fortier