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Juliet by Anne Fortier



Juliet-by-anne-fortier 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 Julie’s twin sister. The only thing Julie receives is a key—one carried by her mother on the day she herself died—to a safety-deposit box in Siena, Italy.

This key sends Julie on a journey that will change her life forever—a 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 Shakespeare’s famous tragedy.

Read more . . .

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 her—superstitions, 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 curse—“A 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?
Ballantine Books; 1 edition (August 24, 2010)

Book Club Ideas

When deciding what to wear for your book club party for Juliet, consider this quote: “But he is an Italian..He doesn’t care if you break some law a little bit, as long as you wear beautiful shoes.” (page 32) Encourage everyone to put their best foot forward for this book club party.

Decorations at our book club party included a Romeo and Juliet book and horses to represent the Palio.

Horses, Romeo and Juliet

I looked everywhere to find something that resembled the cencio, but no luck. It was a blue silk banner with the Virgin Mary painted on it, her hair bound by a halo and her hands raised in blessing.

Tuscan inspired music includes Bella Tuscany, Tuscany A Romantic Journey, and Andrea Bocelli’s Cieli di Toscana.

Bella Tuscany MusicTuscan Music A Romantic JourneyAndrea Bocelli, Cieli di Toscana


Book Club Menu

Julie’s first meal in Siena was at a bustling pizzeria so we decided to have our book club at Fralo’s Art of Pizza, an award-winning restaurant with out of this world pizza.  If you want to make your own pizza, Fralo’s kindly shared some pizza making tips with us.   We have several delicious pizza recipes to choose from.

We started our night off toasting with Prosecco . . . a favorite of everyone in the group.

Prosecco, Juliet, Anne Fortier

Then the mouthwatering pizza!

Fralo's Pizza

In Juliet, while at dinner with Alessandro, Julie dipped Cantucci in Vin Santo (Holy Wine), a traditional Tuscan dessert wine. Cantucci are almond biscotti that are traditionally served at the end of a meal.

Cantucci, Vin Santo, Juliet, Anne Fortier

Although I prefer biscotti dipped in coffee, the flavor of the almond/amaretto cookie and wine was surprisingly good.

Other Juliet-inspired dishes include ribollita soup (page 234) and chocolate panforte (page 265). Ribollita soup is a typical Sienese dish made with a variety of vegetables and beans. Panforte, also known as Siena Cake, is similar to fruit cake and often served at Christmas time.

Chocolate Panforte Siena


Book Club Resources

Ratings at the time this post was published

Goodreads: 3.90 stars (20,484 ratings)
Amazon: 4 stars (370 reviews)
LibraryThing: 3.74 stars (377 ratings)
My Rating: 4 stars

Book Reviews

  • “Ingenious, intriguing, a thrilling story that keeps you turning the pages. This is a wonderfully textured novel of history and imagination that brings Italy, past and present, beautifully to life.” —Kate Mosse, author of Labyrinth and Sepulchre
  • “A feast of myth, history, and tantalizing indulgences—I was swept away, blown away, and taken for ransom. Anne Fortier breathes new life into the Shakespearean tragedy we thought we knew. I fell in love with Juliet all over again”—Jaime Ford, author of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet
  • “Taking her story back to the 1300s and forward the present, and sprinkling historical facts among the fiction, Anne Fortier creates a dazzling tale that will keep the readers enthralled to the very last sentence!” – Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews

Discussion Questions

Spoiler Alert: Discussion guide may contain spoilers to the book.

1. In Anne Fortier’s novel Juliet, Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet casts a long shadow over the lives of the main characters, past and present. Looking at the “original” story of Romeo and Giulietta set in 1340, consider in what ways Fortier uses Shakespeare’s great tragedy as a model for her own work, and in what ways she departs from it.
2. Discuss the ways in which the bonds of sisterhood—for good and for ill—are central to the novel. Why do you think Fortier introduces this element into her story?
3. Although there are surprising revelations about all the characters in the novel, perhaps the most shocking has to do with Umberto, Aunt Rose’s faithful butler. Did you find Umberto to be a sympathetic character? Why or why not?
4. Very early in the novel, we are introduced to Julie’s recurring dream—a dream that seems to foretell her own fate and to recapitulate the fate of Romeo and Guilietta centuries earlier. Is there a rational explanation for this dream, or is it a supernatural occurrence? And what about the other seemingly supernatural events or objects in the novel, such as the divine intervention of the Virgin Mary on Giulietta’s wedding night with Messer Salimbeni, or the destructive powers of Romeo’s signet ring; can these events be explained rationally?
5. How does the relationship of Janice and Julie evolve over the course of the novel? What are the major turning points? Did you find these changes believable? Why or why not? Read more . . .


6. Why does Friar Lorenzo champion the young lovers, risking his life on their behalf? Do you think he is justified in placing a curse on both the Tolomei and the Salimbeni houses?
7. Juliet is in many ways a novel about families and the secrets and obligations that hold them together…and sometimes force them apart. Consider the bonds of family, love and duty in the three families we meet in the 1340 storyline, beginning with the relationship between fathers and their children. In what ways are they different? How are they the same? And what about the present-day narrative…has anything changed?
8. Maestro Lippi occupies the studio of Maestro Ambrogio, and, like Ambrogio, he, too, has a dog named Dante. Is the author trying to suggest that Lippi is some kind of reincarnation of Ambrogio? What is the relationship between these two characters, separated by centuries?
9. What about Julie and Alessandro: are they reincarnations of Giulietta and Romeo, forced to repeat the actions of their ancestors by the terms of an ancient curse, or by some genetic inheritance? In what ways do the lives of the two sets of characters parallel or echo each other? In what ways are they different?
10. Compare the ways that the characters from 1340 think and act to the ways the present-day characters think and act. Are they more or less impulsive? More or less rational? Does love mean the same thing to them? How, for example, is the love that develops between Julie and Alessandro different from that of Romeo and Giulietta? What accounts for these differences?
11. Compare the banter between Romeo and Giulietta at their first meetings with the corresponding text of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, especially in Act I, Scene V, and Act II, Scene II. Note where Fortier follows Shakespeare and where she goes her own way. Why do you think she makes those choices? How do those choices distinguish her versions of Romeo and Juliet from their more famous antecedents?
12. At one point, Alessandro tells Julie: “In my opinion, your story—and Romeo and Juliet as well—is not about love. It’s about politics….” Do you agree or disagree with this statement? Why? What do you think the author’s opinion is?
13. Themes of guilt, redemption, and second chances course through the novel, especially in the present-day narrative, impelling many of the characters and their actions. Consider which characters embrace the opportunity of a second chance, and which don’t.
14. Another prevalent theme is that of twins and twinning. Not only are some characters born as twins, but others seem to be mirrored across the centuries. At one point in the novel, Julie sits on the front steps of the Siena Cathedral, thinking about the myth behind the black-and-white Siena coat-of-arms, the Balzana, which involves a pair of twins fleeing from their evil uncle on a black and a white horse. Why do you think Fortier has woven these threads—twinning and black-and-white—so strongly into her fictional tapestry?
15. Why does Alessandro keep his true identity a secret from Julie for so long? Is he right to do so?
16. Does Julie trust Alessandro too easily? Why does she wait so long to confront him with what she knows about his actions and his identity?
17. At the end of the novel, Julie muses: “Who knows, maybe there never was a curse. Maybe it was just us—all of us—thinking that we deserved one.” Do you think there was a curse, or not?
18. Flash forward five years past the end of the novel. What has happened to Julie and Janice? What about Umberto? If there was going to be a sequel to this novel, told from Janice’s point of view, what questions would you like to have answered, and what themes would you like so see further explored?
(Discussion Questions from Random House)

Purchase Juliet at your favorite bookseller

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About the Author

Visit Anne Fortier’s website

About Siena

Browse this photo gallery of the sites around Siena. Below each picture is a description of the scene in which Anne Fortier incorporates the photo (taken by her mother) into Juliet.

www.inItaly.com has great pictures and information about the famous horse race Palio di Siena, one of the oldest horse races in the world.

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Other Notes and Comments

Do you have any other ideas or recipes for a book club party for Juliet? We would love to have you share them with us! You can leave a comment below and upload pictures as well.



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