I picked up Anne Fortier’s Juliet in the library because the jacket said it was connected to Shakespeare's Juliet.

Romeo and Juliet is not my favorite of Shakespeare's plays (that's The Tempest) but it's one I have a connection to because I taught it for a number of years and know it well.

I don't know Anne Fortier as an author. She grew up in Denmark, and immigrated to the United States in 2002, and lives in Canada with her Canadian, English professor husband. So, English isn't her native language. Fortier has said that tiny Denmark (only five million people) means that nobody speaks Danish but the Danes. But Danes do learn other languages if they want to travel.

She has a Ph.D. in the History of Ideas, and co-produced the Emmy-winning documentary Fire and Ice: The Winter War of Finland and Russia.

And her Juliet?  She lives in Sienna (not Shakespeare's Verona) and her name is Julie Jacobs. She and her oddball sister, Janice, are orphaned when their Aunt who cared for them dies.She leaves the family estate to Janice, and Julie gets a passport, a key, and a family secret - that she her real name is Giulietta Tolomei, and she is a descendant that famous Juliet.

That's the Giulietta Tolomei of the family that battled the Salembenis (in Sienna) and were the real families that inspired Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.

So the book travels between today and Giulietta’s 14th-century past. Things Shakespearean
do appear. Some of his lines appear (sometimes changed). There's a Friar Lorenzo and a character named Paris. Though not in the same way, Romeo kills Juliet’s cousin Tybalt (Tebaldo).

There is also a contessa, mobsters, cops and other modern characters. And there's a lot of plot and plotting with mystery, clues, surprise twists, and a love story.

The first version of the R&J story was set in Siena and was published in Italy in 1476 by a writer called Masuccio Salernitano who was writing more than 100 years after the real events. It was changed by other hands as it traveled in time, but is still recognizable as the one Shakespeare used a century later.

I'm envious that Fortier got to do research in Siena. Visiting libraries and digging through old records and family trees and city and architectural plans, sounds pretty cool to me. And she needed to know the old and new Sienna.

I agree with reviews that appreciate the Sienna aspect of the novel. The book is not so much a research or Shakespeare study as it is a modern day fiction and mystery about the past and present. A good beach read, even if it almost winter.

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