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.