Anne Fortier’s debut novel, Juliet, delves into the “true” story of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. The “real” story did not take place in Verona, but actually in Siena. The feuding families were the Tolomei’s and the Salimbeni’s. Juliet was a Tolomei, but Romeo was not a Salimbeni – he was a Mariscotti! As if that isn’t confusing enough, Ms. Fortier’s novel bounces between the present and 1340 (the year that the original Romeo and Juliet fell in love, and tragically lost their lives). The present day Giulietta knew herself by Julie Jacobs all her life. Only after her aunt’s death was she told that her real name was Giulietta Tolomei and she was a direct descendent of the “real” Juliet . She and her twin sister, Janice, had been born in Italy and whisked away to America by her aunt when their parents tragically died. After her aunt’s death, Julie/Giulietta was secretly given a letter which told her she had to return to Italy to find a treasure which was rightfully hers…and to be careful since there was a presumed curse on this treasure.
The story takes place mostly in Siena, both in the present day and in the Siena of the Middle Ages. So many of this medieval city’s landmarks come to life with Ms. Fortier’s vivid descriptions of the tiny alleys, the soaring towers, and the magnificent campo. She describes the Palio – the horse race that brings all of Siena together in a competition between contradas (neighborhoods). She also takes us to the Tuscan countryside near Val d’Orcia and we can just see the rolling hills and cypress lined avenues leading up to beautiful villas.
The story is full of mystery, intrigue, violence, deceipt…and love. All throughout the book, you’re never quite sure who are the good guys and who are the bad guys!
I enjoyed this book and would highly recommend it. It kept me hooked throughout – even if just to get all the characters and their allegiances in order!
Some new Italian words I learned from this book were:
Cencio = this is the banner presented to the winner of the Palio.Contrada= the neighborhoods of Siena that compete against other in the Palio. I read this book as part of Italy in Books Challenge 2011.