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“O, Juliet” by Robin Maxwell

Posted By Claire on January 15, 2010

O Juliet by Robin MaxwellI know that many Robin Maxwell fans are eagerly awaiting the publication of her new novel, “O, Juliet”, on the 2nd February 2010, so I thought you might like to know my views on this novel. Here’s my review of Robin Maxwell’s latest offering.

William Shakespeare, “The Bard”, is a tough act to follow, so I must admit to being rather apprehensive and cynical when I heard that Robin Maxwell was going to be retelling his famous story of Romeo and Juliet, the “star-crossed lovers”, after all, who could compete with Shakespeare?! Also, I am a die-hard Shakespeare fan, the man can do no wrong in my eyes!  But, I had to eat my words, and my hat, when I read Robin Maxwell’s novel. It was a beautiful retelling of this story of eternal love and love against all odds, and was incredibly magical. I got hooked straight away and it is one of those novels, like Maxwell’s previous novels, where you just can’t put it down.

As the book blurb says “Their love was the stuff of legend. But the legend is only half the story.” and Maxwell’s book does a great job of turning a play, which many people are not able to see performed, or who would not always enjoy and understand the Shakespearean language, into a story and legend that is accessible to all, and giving depth to the storyline and characters. The reader is told the story through the eyes of both Romeo and Juliet and it becomes more than a tragic love story about the failure of the postal system, as my husband describes it (heathen!), it becomes a vibrant and passionate love story between two people you can relate to and who you can’t help but love. It has all the ingredients of the original – love, passion, revenge, tragedy and loss – but I love the way that Maxwell handles the ending, an ending which could be so tragic and flat, and which could leave you seriously depressed. Shakespeare ends with the words:-

“A glooming peace this morning with it brings;
The sun for sorrow will not show his head.
Go hence to have more talk of these sad things;
Some shall be pardon’d and some punished;
For never was a story of more woe
Than this of Juliet and her Romeo.”

whereas Maxwell’s last scene is an uplifting one and one that leaves you satisfied and feeling warm inside. I won’t spoil the ending by telling you whether or not Maxwell deviates from Shakespeare’s, but I closed the book feeling happy with what she had done.

If you are a fan of Shakespeare’s play, you will notice many differences in Maxwell’s account of Romeo and Juliet. For example, the names have been changed from Romeo Montague and Juliet Capulet to Romeo Monticecco and Juliet Capelletti, which are far more Italian. Also, the setting has been changed from “fair Verona” to Florence at the time of the Medici, the Renaissance era which Maxwell enjoyed using in her novel “Signora da Vinci”. Using Renaissance Florence allowed Maxwell to reuse a character from her former novel, that of Lucrezia Tornabuoni, as Juliet’s best friend and confidante, and the Medici and Strozzi families of power and influence. Did I mind this change of era and setting? Not at all. Florence is one of my favourite cities in the world and I thought that this beautiful Renaissance city, with its link to the Arts, made the perfect backdrop for the world’s most famous love story.

As well as the ending, the backdrop and use of new characters, I loved the way that Maxwell gave Romeo and Juliet a shared passion, something which linked their hearts, souls and minds, and this passion is the poet Dante. Dante Alighieri is the man known as the “Father of the Italian Language” and “The Supreme Poet” and is famous for his work “The Divine Comedy. As Maxwell explains in her “Readers Guide” at the end, Dante was a bit of a “Renaissance Rock Star”, a man who was a bit of a radical and who was banished from the city of his birth, but one who had a major influence on the time. Romeo and Juliet’s shared love of his poetry ties them together from the start. Maxwell explains it well when she says:-

“For Romeo – himself an amateur poet – to find a woman who was his creative and intellectual equal, if not his better, would have shaken his world. And for Juliet to discover a soulful, wild-hearted and secretly subversive young poet determined – as few others were in those days – to be a peace-maker would have been enough to spur her on to great heights of rebellion against a killingly repressive society, even if escape from it meant her death.”

In finding each other, both Romeo and Juliet had each found their soulmate, someone who shares their dreams, and to see their love and passion flourish in this book is a real joy.

What Others are Saying about “O, Juliet”

“A reigning queen of historical fiction takes on the treasured tale of Romeo and Juliet in a tribute that would make Shakespeare stand up and cheer!” Michelle Moran, bestselling author of “Cleopatra’s Daughter”.

“Maxwell conjures up an intimate historical retelling of the timeless classic, evoking the world’s most famous lovers with breathtaking passion and literary elegance.” C W Gortner, author of “The Last Queen”.

“A page turner that will leave you breathless.” Lalita Tademy, “New York Times” bestselling author of “Cane River and Red River.”

What Do I Say?

If you want a book to get lost in, to feed your soul and to give you a warm, fuzzy feeling on these rather cold winter’s nights, then read “O, Juliet” and get transported to Renaissance Florence. It is a romance in the true sense of the word – not a trashy romance but a story of two dreamers finding their soulmate and battling against the world. Isn’t that what love is really about? Beautiful!

Sneak Peek

You can read a sneak peek of “O, Juliet” at Robin Maxwell’s website – click here to read part of Chapter 6 now.


You can pre-order “O, Juliet” by Robin Maxwell at Amazon US – click here – or at your usual bookshop. I’m sure you’ll love it. Do let me know your thoughts after you’ve read it.

Don’t forget to take part in Robin Maxwell’s special Love Games to celebrate the launch of her new book, see my post on The Elizabeth Files –


3 Responses to ““O, Juliet” by Robin Maxwell”

  1. The Tudor Tutor says:

    For that matter, Shakespeare himself was retelling stories! Most of his work was borrowed and not original. So I say, Robin Maxwell knock yourself out, girl! 🙂

  2. Claire says:

    Very true, Barb, there are many old stories about lovers torn apart by family differences. It is a great book. Thanks for the comment.

  3. BoleynChild says:

    Shakespeare is absolutely brilliant! I love Robin Maxwell and have not read this book yet, but it is definately on my list! Her book Madmoiselle Boleyn is really good too. It discusses Anne’s early childhood in the French Court and her service to Francois. Good read!

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