O, Juliet: A Novel by Robin Maxwell: A Book Review

O, Juliet: A Novel
Author: Robin Maxwell
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: New American Library
Release Date: 2010
Pages: 352
Source: Personal Collection
Synopsis: A RICH TALE OF PASSION, REVENGE, AND TRAGEDY ON THE CUSP OF THE ITALIAN RENAISSANCE: A FRESH TWIST ON THE BARD’S BELOVED ROMEO AND JULIET

     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.

     My Review: Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is perhaps one of Shakespeare’s most famous plays. Today, people cannot get enough of Shakespeare’s romantic poetry regarding the famous star-crossed lovers. Hollywood has recently released an adaptation of Shakespeare’s play starring Hailee Steinfeld and Douglas Booth. It is hard for any author to retell Shakespeare's famous love story. Yet, Robin Maxwell does a great job recounting the story of the star-crossed lovers. We are drawn to the romance of their fated meeting and are pulled into an enchanting journey as we feel the curtains draw on their tragic fate.

     Unlike Shakespeare’s play, the setting for the star-crossed lovers is not Verona. Rather, it takes place in Florence, ruled by the Medici family. The story is narrated by Juliet  Capelletti, whose father is a clothing merchant. She is engaged to Jacopo Strozzi, who will be the successor of her father’s business. Her best friend Lucrezia is marrying into the Medici family. Juliet’s life changes on the night of Lucrezia's engagement party when she meets and falls in love with the son of her family’s enemy, Romeo Monitcecco.

     Juliet is very educated. She and her best friend, Lucrezia were entitled to a Renaissance education. She loves poetry and her ambition is to be a poet. She is also a romantic. She is willing to move the heavens and the mountains to live a life of love, and not a life that her parents and society has for her. Romeo is her match in the novel, and both of them are well-matched. Romeo is also a romantic. He is willing to do anything to be with Juliet. Both he and Juliet have the same common love for the poet, Dante, who they viewed as a romantic. One thing that I dislike about this novel is Maxwell’s claims of Dante being a food of romance for these two star-crossed lovers. Having read Dante’s Inferno in college, it is hard to believe that he would play the part of a romantic poet, whose poetry inspired these two lovers who try everything they can to be together.

     Overall, the novel is not as good as Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, but it is nevertheless a poignant and beautiful retelling. The setting and the society’s customs and conventions in Renaissance Florence was believable. The lovers are likable. Another thing I dislike about the book is that Jacopo’s character was one-dimensional. He was a stock villain. I feel that the author should have made him a more complex character. Still, I feel that this novel is a great tribute and homage to the infamous bard.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This is a video about the author talking about the premise of the novel:

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