Monday, March 23, 2009

In Fair Verona, Where We Set Our Scene: The Juliet Club by Suzanne Harper

Did you know that each year thousands of twenty-first century mortals needing advice on that most vexed subject, love, write to Juliet Capulet? And send their letters off to Verona, Italy? And actually get an answer?

How is this possible, you ask? Well, it's the same kind of magic that allows the thousands of children who write to Santa in the North Pole right before Christmas to receive a reply from jolly old Saint Nick. Like Santa, Juliet has a bevy of ghostwriters who manage her correspondence. They call themselves the Juliet Club, and they are based in Verona, Italy.

Inspired by the real-life Juliet Club, Suzanne Harper has concocted a most entertaining romance revolving around a summer high-school seminar on the subject of Romeo and Juliet, whose lucky attendees get to study the Bard in Juliet's birthplace of Verona. The setting is scrumptious--lemon trees, cobbled streets, sunny mazes where one may, by happenstance, meet one's destined mate. The love story is suitably transforming ; our protagonist, Kate, loosens up a lot emotionally in one short month without losing an ounce of her savvy, and her love interest, Giacomo, evolves from a dedicated flirt to a charmingly devoted young man. The Juliet Club is set apart from other contemporary romances by the way Harper so deftly turns the study of Romeo and Juliet into the intellectual backdrop for her more modern tale. The underplayed humour throughout adds to the book's pleasures. This is a happy book that I would have gobbled down as a teen, like a luscious dessert that was actually good for you.


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