February 17, 2010

Review: O, Juliet (+ Contest Winners)

First, the MY SOUL TO SAVE winners are:


I didn't pay attention to people's answers aside from making sure they answered the question, but oddly all three winners agreed with me that Lady Gaga should've won.

Don't forget the Vampire Academy and Vlad Tod swag contest is still open! Believe me, I recieved a pack exactly like the winner will get and it's sweet.


Second, I am having some personal issues right now. I am ineligible next year for the scholarships that have been paying for my college since I'm only attending one semester. The company that my mother worked for ceased operations in Texas, so she's currently unemployed. I'm unemployed. I'm trying to figure out how I'm going to make some money, trying to find scholarships I am eligible for, and worrying about the fact I want to intern this summer and publishing internships don't appear to pay.

But enough about me, we're here to talk books.


By Robin Maxwell
Available now from Penguin
Review copy

Book Cover

I'm going to assume that everyone on this blog knows the story of Romeo and Juliet, which was well known even before Shakespeare wrote his immortal version. In fact, most of ya'll have probably seen it performed - a high school version, trip with a class, or at least the Zeferelli and/or Baz Luhrmann versions. Robin Maxwell sets her version in pre-Renaissance Florence and gives her Romeo and Juliet a passion for poetry and an age-up. I'm kind of sad it isn't set directly in the Renaissance, since they'd without a doubt be writing sonnets. And R&J go with sonnets like peanut butter goes with jelly. Just look at their first lines together in Shakespeare:

93 If I profane with my unworthiest hand
94 This holy shrine, the gentle sin is this:
95 My lips, two blushing pilgrims, ready stand
96 To smooth that rough touch with a tender kiss.

97 Good pilgrim, you do wrong your hand too much,
98 Which mannerly devotion shows in this;
99 For saints have hands that pilgrims' hands do touch,
100 And palm to palm is holy palmers' kiss.

101 Have not saints lips, and holy palmers too?

102 Ay, pilgrim, lips that they must use in prayer.

103 O, then, dear saint, let lips do what hands do;
104 They pray — grant thou, lest faith turn to despair.

105 Saints do not move, though grant for prayers' sake.

106 Then move not, while my prayer's effect I take.

I enjoyed tracking where Maxwell truly made the story her own. She gave Juliet a best friend in Lucrezia Tornbuoni, right before Lucrezia became one of the most powerful women of the age by marrying into the de'Medici family. She rolled Tybalt and Mercutio together to create Marco, a cousin who supports R&J's risky affair. She develops the feud in detail, offering hope that O, JULIET may have a happy ending. I liked seeing her flesh out R&J, who too often come across as callow teenagers. It's not just that she makes them the appropriate age for marriage in the new setting, but that she explores their passions outside of each other.

However, few other characters receive a fuller characterization from Maxwell's men. Jacopo Strozzi, Juliet's fiance, goes from a non-offensive obstacle to a mustache-twirling villain. His threat to castrate Romeo was perfect to me since I just finished reading THE LETTERS OF ABELARD AND HELOISE, but other than that he seemed like he would fit in better tying Juliet to train tracks in a silent film. (He would, of course, say Romeo tied her to those tracks.)

There's a lot of purple prose on display, but I think it works. It's the most famous love story of our time, as well as for a few centuries before our time. Tristan and Isolde faded from pop culture awareness, but not R&J. Plus, the rhythm of the language is a good match for the poetry R&J share with each other. It makes sense that they would narrate in the same idiom.

I enjoyed O, JULIET. It hit the right buttons on my romantic side. It's not going to replace Shakespeare, but it's a good choice for a rainy day. You might even learn a little history - Maxwell did her research.


  1. Best of luck with your financials.

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  4. Interesting book, it sounds like. I'm not sure I fully appreciate the hold that R&J has on our culture...perhaps I should see one of the film versions again, or do a little study of R&J knockoffs in literature. This does sound interesting, though - especially the age-up and setting. Glad you liked it, and nice review!

  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

  6. Hm, sounds interesting. I may look into this one!


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