O, Juliet, Robin Maxwell
I have been chomping at the bit to post my full review of this marvelous book! Robin Maxwell's newest masterpiece will be released on February 2 so make plans to run (yes run) out to pick this one up. You will be glad that you did!
Maxwell's newest novel is a fascinating look at Romeo and Juliet's story without the Shakespearean language. Let me say first that this is NOT a retelling of Shakespeare's play but rather a look at what really "might have been." The basic storyline is the same but everything else is told in much more detail with some slight changes to help the story along. As Shakespeare based his famous play off several Medieval love stories, Maxwell also used those in her research for this novel. There is a wonderful blend of the familiar story mixed with marvelous details of the time period which I feel really help immerse the reader in the story. Maxwell fills in all the details that Shakespeare's play leaves out: customs, traditions, business practices, treatment and status of women, etc. These details really help separate this novel from the play. Where as the play is really just the love story between two teenagers Maxwell's novel is really a look at the lives of these two young adults and the events in the world around them.
There are recognizable characters though some may have different names and different personalities (for instance the rather quiet, meek Paris becomes Jacapo Strozzi, a truly malicious and despicable man). I really enjoyed the characterization of Romeo and Juliet in this novel. Romeo is portrayed as a sensitive but energetic young man who loves Juliet not just for her beauty but for her intellect and passions as well. Juliet is a feisty young woman who is educated, has a sense of adventure, and is quite determined to go after what she wants. It was wonderful to see the two as individual people with other issues in their lives rather than a pair of moon-struck teenagers. Our two protagonists are also in their late teens here which makes their feelings for each other seem much more real and staying, rather than a teenage crush. Maxwell really outdid herself with her portrayals of these two famous characters.
Besides familiar characters, there are familiar events in the novel, though the way they come about or the outcome may be different. I really enjoyed the way Juliet managed to get away in order to marry Romeo. We get a better look at why there is a feud between the Capelletti and the Monticecco and Romeo is even able to negotiate a truce between the two. It was wonderful to see that a relationship between the two could have been possible at this point, as the two families were able to "make friends." Jacapo, Juliet's bethrothed, is really the catalyst that causes all the friction and problems between the two families. He really is a loathsome creature. It is his influence that really puts pressure on the couple as the story nears its climax and I was eager to see what Maxwell's resolution to the situation would be. I will not give away the ending but it was quite emotional.
This is a very fun, entertaining, and fast read. Shakespeare's basic story is really embellished and filled out with wonderful detail. It will really hold your attention! I would recommend this to anyone: Shakespeare buffs, romance fans, general readers. Please head over and see my interview with Ms. Maxwell and stayed tuned...there may be a giveaway!!