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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 Julies twin sister. The only thing Julie receives is a keyone carried by her mother on the day she herself diedto a safety-deposit box in Siena, Italy.
This key sends Julie on a journey that will change her life forevera 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 Shakespeares 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 hersuperstitions, 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 curseA 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 tiedfor better or worseto literatures greatest star-crossed lovers. Jamie Ford Reviews Juliet
Jamie Ford is the New York Times Bestselling author of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, which was chosen as the #1 Book Club Pick for Fall 2009/Winter 2010 by the American Booksellers Association. Read his review of Juliet:
Okay, youre here, on Amazon and by some clever and fortunate happenstance youve clicked over to Anne Fortiers Juliet. First let me say, bravo. Not only are you intrepid enough to find this gem of a debut novel, but you are about to embark on a journey to Sienna (not Verona, for you Romeo and Juliet purists out there--dont feel bad, I was one of them too) with our heroine, Julie Jacobs.
Secondly, my advice--aside from urging you to buy this book before someone else in your book club beats you to it--is to buckle up and hold on with both hands. Youre in for a wild ride--a lush, romantic voyage that will stimulate all of your literary senses.
Our story begins when Julies beloved Aunt Rose dies, leaving Julie and her twisted sister, Janice orphaned. (Their parents died years earlier in Tuscany). But while Aunt Rose leaves the family estate to Janice, Julie is bequeathed next to nothing, just a passport, a key, and a secret--that her real name is Giulietta Tolomei, a descendant of the Tolomeis and the Salembenis, the real families that inspired Shakespeares Romeo and Julietand that the "Curse upon both your houses," is alive and well, 600 years later.
With exquisite detail and flawless pacing, Juliet is a multi-layered tapestry of Julies present and Giuliettas 14th-century past, where families, generations apart, are still at each others throats. Betwixt tragedy and epic romance, Juliet will stir your heart and quicken your pulse. After all, if Julie is Giulietta, then where art thou, Romeo?
And lest I forget, and in the interest of full disclosure, I must confess that Im not your typical admirer of Shakespeare. Sure, one of my earliest childhood memories is of wandering around the prop room of Oregons famed Shakespeare Festival with MacBeths bloody head on a pike, and yes, instead of a traditional wedding reception, my wife and I opted to take everyone to a performance of A Midsummer Nights Dream (the wedding party still in full regalia), but please dont hold that against me.
You will fall in love with Juliet, as I did, as she reinvents your perceptions of a Shakespearean classic.
Questions for Anne Fortier on Juliet
Q: How did you become interested in writing a novel that supposed the famed Romeo and Juliet actually came from Siena, Italy, rather than Verona? What was your starting point for the novel?
A: As soon as I set foot in Siena in March of 2005 I knew I had to set a novel there. Even for a European the place is spellbinding with its medieval architecture and fascinating history. I was there with my mother, and I remember walking around next to her with a notepad, gathering juicy bits and pieces and wondering how to construct a story around the Tolomeis and the Salimbenis--two feuding families that lived in Siena in the late Middle Ages. Then, out of the blue, my mother came across the amazing fact that the first version of Romeo & Juliet was set right there in Siena, and not in Verona. It was published in Italy in 1476 by a writer called Masuccio Salernitano, and although the story went through many hands and underwent a number of changes along the way, this was essentially the story that ended up on Shakespeares desk more than a century later. As you can imagine, as soon as I learned this marvelous fact, I knew right away I had my story.
Q: Its one thing to build a novel around a relative unknown in history but quite another to take on perhaps the most famous couple in literature. What gave you the courage to tackle Romeo and Juliet's story partly set in a time before Shakespeares? How conscious of or careful about Shakespeares characters were you during the writing process?
A: I think I was so excited by the discovery of Masuccio Salernitanos story that it didnt even occur to me to pause and wonder whether I was being too ambitious. And it wasnt exactly as if I was setting out to rival Shakespeare, in fact, quite the opposite: I wanted to take the story back to its gritty origins, strip away some of the poetic polish, and imagine what it might have looked like if Romeo and Juliet had really lived. Even so, I was extremely conscious of Shakespeares version of the story as I worked on Juliet, and did my best to pay tribute to the Bard whenever I could, most often by taking his words and twisting them slightly, but also by remaining relatively faithful to his cast of characters. For example, you will find Friar Lorenzo and Paris playing key roles in the book, and you will also find the drama of Romeo killing Juliets cousin Tybalt/Tebaldo played out in grisly detail...although in a very different way than in Shakespeare!
Q: Siena, Italy, is such a part of the novel that its surprising to learn that youd only been there once before starting this book and only traveled there once to do research while you were writing. How were you able to bring the city to life?
A: Its true that I only visited Siena once before I started writing, but keep in mind that I grew up in Europe and spent a lot of time in Italy growing up. Perhaps for that reason it was such a wonderful surprise for me to discover Siena at the age of 33. And Ill tell you, when I went back to do research in 2006 I didnt waste any time but spent every single minute thinking about Juliet and the logistics of the plot. I even lay in my bed at Hotel Chiusarelli at night, listening to the Vespas and wondering how to somehow use the fact that my room had a balcony. Without spoiling the plot, that was how the idea of Romeos tennis ball was born.
But obviously, I couldnt cover everything on my research trip, and inevitably, the story developed over time, making it necessary for me to go back and check lots and lots of facts. Except...I couldnt. I was living in the US at the time, and this is where my mother comes into the picture once again. For while I was stuck at work across the Atlantic, she would be in Siena, going to libraries and archives in search of old documents, such as family trees and architectural plans of certain buildings. At the same time, she had to help me get the facts straight about present-day Siena, too; you might say she was my "eyes on the ground." Although I knew Siena quite well, my memory wasnt perfect, and I would ask her to double-check all my descriptions and take hundreds and hundreds of photos; she would even meet with people on my behalf, and I would then base my writing on her reports.
We really had a lot of fun working on this together, and my mother would send me her "top secret" notes in special envelopes "for my eyes only." Often I would ask her to do the silliest things, such as imagine she had to break into a certain bank or a certain museum-- how would she do it?--or think about where she would hide if she was Julie. But she loved those challenges--she is a really good sport.
Q: You were born and raised in Denmark, have since lived all over the world, and now reside in Canada. What kind of challenges, if any, did writing this novel in English pose, since its not your first language?
A: You probably have a natural advantage when you grow up in a small country. Denmark has only five million people, and so natura