I have just finished reading a really good book called Juliet written by the American author Anne Fortier. I finished this book in under a week as the story was so compelling, each page had me gripped.
The main character in the book is called Julie Jacobs or Guilietta Tolomei as we later discover. She lives in Virginia on the east coast of America. After receiving the news that her aunt has died she rushes home and is launched into a quest of family secrets, love and danger. Julie inherits a key to a safety deposit box in Siena, Italy. A letter left by her aunt explains that the box will lead her to an old family treasure. The box unveils information about her ancestor Giulietta whose famous love for a young man named Romeo caused despair for the medieval Siena. As Julie meets with descendants of the families of Shakespeare's legendary blood feud, she learns that the curse 'A plague on both of your houses' is still present in modern-day Siena and learns that she is the next target. Her parents died painfully trying to break the curse between the two households and it appears that only Romeo can save her from a tragic fate, but where is he?
There have been many rumours that Shakespeare was not responsible for all of his great works and this book is fiction, but it suggests that Romeo and Juliet is set in Siena rather than the famous Verona. Julie is a great lover of Shakespeare and feels a special connection with his play Romeo and Juliet. Throughout the novel we learn that she is a direct descendant of the original Juliet. The papers that Julie discovers suggest that the tale of Romeo and Juliet dates much further back from the Shakespeare version and it also alters many of the key facts. So maybe Shakespeare was inspired by a real-life tragic love story. This novel shows that the world in medieval times and today is not so different, that there is still the idea that our families can dictate who we are allowed to fall in love with. When Julie travels to Italy she does not just discover her family history but she also falls in love, which could turn out to be deadly for her.
One element that I really liked about this book is that it switches between the present day and 1640 AD. The author has adopted very different styles of writing for the two periods and it means that the reader is constantly on the edge of their seat.
I loved reading this book as it gave a new perspective to Shakespeare's famous Romeo and Juliet. It questions whether it was his own master work and suggests that he borrowed the idea from an ancient love feud in Siena but it's really up to the reader to decide what they believe.
Would you like to read the book? Do you know the story of Romeo and Juliet? You can watch a short video of the story in our Shakespeare section.