Juliet’s Answer by Glenn Dixon

img_3779“… everyone yearns for a little magic. Everyone wants the Gates of Paradise to open for them, and when I wrote my letter to Juliet, it was one last knock on the door. It was one last attempt at a happy ending.”

Juliet’s Answer contains real stories in which the author recounts his experience of traveling to Verona and joining a group that is dedicated to answering the many letters that are addressed to Juliet. That is Juliet of Romeo and Juliet. After the city of Verona began receiving numerous letters from all over the world addressed to Juliet, all having to do with woes of love, a group was established that came to be known as Secretaries of Juliet. Glenn Dixon, who was a teacher for over twenty years and taught Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet to his classes, decided to travel to Verona and volunteer his time in answering the letters to Juliet. He does this in an effort to heal, understand heartbreak, and maybe learn something about the ever complicated subject of love.  

“… the sentiments were all the same. All of them were asking about love. All were asking about this soul-wrenching experience that is both our deepest sorrow and our greatest joy.”

This is a nice, breezy, and enjoyable read for fans of soul-searching memoirs, as well as lovers of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. The book is presented and organized beautifully into three “acts” containing photos as well as a map and a reader’s guide. The author takes turns talking about his experiences in Verona, flashing back to his struggle with heartbreak, and also dissecting and discussing the play of Romeo and Juliet in one of his classes. Each section is interesting and there is a really nice flow to the structure of the stories, particularly the way the author’s class on Romeo and Juliet is mixed in. A lovely read that tackles the subject of love and brings Verona to life.

Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter

BLOG“Life, he thought, is a blatant act of imagination.”

With a lovely picture from the trail in Cinque Terre, Italy as the cover, Beautiful Ruins entices with a promise of charm and beauty that can be found in this wonderful part of Italy.  The opening chapter delivers just that as we meet Pasqual in 1962, a young hotel owner in a tiny coastal village who is taken aback by the arrival of an American actress. We soon learn that this actress is dying and from there each chapter takes us to a different time, a different place, and tells a story from a different character’s perspective.  There is Pasqual the hotel owner, Michael Deane the Hollywood producer, his development assistant Claire, struggling novelist Shane Wheeler, and failed musician Pat Bender.  Each character’s story interconnects with one another and somehow relates to the events that unfolded in 1962 Italy.  As the overall story develops we travel back and forth in time, learning and uncovering a long kept secret.

Beautiful Ruins is a beautiful contemporary adult novel.  The author does a wonderful job of presenting each character’s story and blending them all together in a way that is cohesive and flows really well.  I love books that take this approach, and when it works it results in an excellent piece of work. Each character’s story is unique in its own way and quite enjoyable, although I felt the characters of Claire and Shane are not as strong as the rest.  My favourite parts are the ones set in Italy and that tell Pasqual’s story as he is such an engaging personality.  This is not a book about travel.  It is a book about love, life, and hope.  If you enjoy a good contemporary read I would definitely recommend Beautiful Ruins.

Favourite quote: “And even if they don’t find what they’re looking for, isn’t it enough to be out walking together in the sunlight?”