Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Review: O, Juliet

Summary: Before Juliet Capelletti lie two futures: a traditionally loveless marriage to her father's business partner, or the fulfillment of her poetic dreams, inspired by the great Dante. Unlike her beloved friend Lucrezia, who looks forward to her arranged marriage into the Medici dynasty, Juliet has a wild, romantic imagination that takes flight in the privacy of her bedchamber and on her garden balcony.

Her life and destiny are forever changed when Juliet meets Romeo Monticecco, a soulful young man seeking peace between their warring families. A dreamer himself, Romeo is unstoppable, once he determines to capture the heart of the remarkable woman foretold in his stars. -- NAL


Last year, I read a wonderful historical fiction book called SIGNORA DA VINCI by Robin Maxwell (see my review.) I thoroughly enjoyed the story as well as Ms. Maxwell's writing style, and I knew that I wanted to read more of her books. Unfortunately, I haven't had the chance yet to go back and read any of her earlier works, but I recently had the opportunity to get my hands on an advanced copy of her latest novel O, JULIET. I consider myself very lucky because I thought this book was such a pleasure to read!

I think I last read Romeo and Juliet in high school English class, but I definitely look back at the story with good memories. In class, we watched one of the movie versions and even did a comparison to West Side Story. I have never thought of myself as the romantic type, but I absolutely loved studying Romeo and Juliet. So when I learned that Ms. Maxwell was writing a re-telling of the classic love story, I was definitely sold!

The funny thing about O, JULIET is that I knew how the story was going to end (O happy dagger!); and I still couldn't put this book down. I liked that this story had the traditional passion between Romeo and Juliet, and yet there was also the good versus bad element. I definitely was intrigued by the story (and the suspense), and I really enjoyed the character of Juliet and how Ms. Maxwell developed her.

Not only did Ms. Maxwell stay pretty true to the original, but I actually think some of the liberties she took made the story more interesting on a historical level. Rather than having Romeo and Juliet live in Verona, she has the story take place Florence. This way she could include some historical information about the Medici family and especially Lucrezia Tornabuoni. In O, JULIET, Lucrezia was one of Juliet's best friends and confidantes; and the reader gets to see bits and pieces of her strong personality throughout the story. I loved Lucrezia's character and thought she was extremely interesting. I am actually hoping that someday Ms. Maxwell might decide to write a future novel about her.

Another interesting aspect of this novel was how the author incorporated verses from Dante's poems throughout the novel. I was familiar with Dante because I read THE INFERNO in high school, and I guess I knew that he and Beatrice were famous lovers; however, I had never read any of his poems about love. So much of what Dante wrote was beautiful and very pertinent to this this re-telling of the Romeo and Juliet story. Since Ms. Maxwell portrayed both Romeo and Juliet as sharing a love of Dante's poetry, their connection to his writing definitely brought them closer together.

O, JULIET would make a fabulous book club selection in my opinion. Since the book is based on Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, there are many things to compare and contrast between the two works. In addition, some other topics you might consider are true love, family obligations, parent/child relationships, friendship, and betrayal. There is a reading guide in the back of the book.

With Valentine's Day coming up later this week, it really is an ideal time to read O, JULIET (or even to buy a copy for someone special.) It is a beautiful book based on one of the most beloved love stories ever; and I think anyone who enjoys romance or historical fiction will appreciate Ms. Maxwell's re-telling of Romeo and Juliet.

Make sure you stop by tomorrow because Ms. Maxwell will be joining us with a special guest post for Book Club Exchange!

Thanks to the publisher for sending me a review copy of this novel.

18 comments:

Sandy Nawrot said...

This book is definitely making it's way around, all with good reviews. I'm intrigued, but I'm not sure if it is enough. Looking back, I was always skeptical towards the story, even as a teen (I know, I have a black heart!). The love at first sight, and stabbing yourself to death thing just really puzzled me. I thought it was just the dumbest thing!

Melissa Palmer said...

This one looks good--I want to read it at some point.

Melissa
JF: To Hell in a Handbasket (4.5/5)
http://melissasbookpicks.blogspot.com/

bermudaonion said...

It says a lot when a book that you know the ending of still calls your name! Great review!

Nicole (Linus's Blanket) said...

I am so glad that this is good. Meg and I have been looking at this for one of our modern Shakespeare choices.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

Well, it's like West Side Story, also of course based on R&J. Even though you know how it's going to go, who can resist such a great story?!!!

Beth Kephart said...

and then you must go and see west side story in nyc. the dance alone is riveting.

Jenny Girl said...

Great review! I would like to read this book even though the story is well known. I read one of Maxwell's other books and was completely entranced and sucked into the story. tHanks for recommendation Julie!

Gerbera Daisy Mom said...

Another one to add to my list!! I love R&J. My husband's theatre produced it several years ago, and seeing in on stage is infintely more amazing!!!

ANovelMenagerie said...

I have this one to read and review. I'm looking forward to it.

Alison said...

I am really surprised at the high praise I've seen of O, Juliet. I was skeptical that this was just going to be another cheap knock-off of THE classic love story. After reading your review, it sounds more like a modern homage rather than a knock-off. Now, I'm intrigued.

Amused said...

I love Shakespeare and think this book sounds fabulous! Can't wait to read a copy!

reviewsbylola said...

I've got this one waiting at the library for me as we speak. I am going to Florence next month so it is perfect timing!

Molly said...

I would like to start reading some historical fiction. This sounds like a great place to start!

Mystica said...

The book has got such good reviews all over but the drama of it leaves me also skeptical (like Sandy). However I would still like to read it!

susangabriel said...

Hi everyone,

Just wanted to let all booklovers know that anyone who comments on my blog post this week will have their name put in my trusty cowboy hat for a chance to win a free autographed copy of Seeking Sara Summers.

The drawing will be on Valentine’s day! So I hope you'll stop by soon and check it out.

www.susangabriel.com/blog

Robin Maxwell said...

Hi there, Robin Maxwell here. Just reading everybody's thoughtful comments about O, JULIET. I just wanted to say to those of you concerned about the young teens falling in love at first sight and then killing themselves in the space of three days (a la Shakespeare's version of Romeo and Juliet), take heart! That really bothered me about the story, too, so I made Juliet 18 and Romeo 25 (considered perfect ages for people to marry in those days) and lengthened the time of the story to several months. The whole thing feels a lot more realistic now, though the passion is no less great. I hope you'll give O, JULIET a read and see if these elements help your enjoyment of the story.

Warm regards,
Robin

Beth F said...

Nice review! I have this and have started it -- I need to stay focused and finish up books instead of just dipping in.

S. Krishna said...

I enjoyed this one - nice review!