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.

Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood

28588073“How he has fallen. How deflated. How reduced. Cobbling together this bare existence, living in a hovel, ignored …”

In the latest release of Hogarth’s Shakespeare series, Margaret Atwood completely delivers with her take on The Tempest.

Felix has been fired from his job as artistic director at the Makeshiweg Theatre Festival by a man he once considered an ally. With his career over and beloved production of The Tempest cancelled, he finds himself completely alone and becomes a recluse, intent on disappearing from everyone’s radar. He makes a home for himself in an abandoned and isolated house, with the ghost of his deceased daughter, Miranda as his sole companion. As the years pass, Felix slowly forms a plan of vengeance. He takes a teaching job with Literacy Through Theatre program at a local penitentiary and aims to bring his long ago cancelled Tempest to life and use it to exact revenge on those who orchestrated his downfall.

Hag-Seed is a delightful and page-turning read. There are a few different aspects to this book as a whole and all work together beautifully; the use of a prison as a setting, the study and production of The Tempest by Felix and his cast, and Felix’s own inner turmoil and plot. The Literacy Through Theatre program, which sets the play within a prison environment is very interesting and compelling. Most fascinating is how the author captures and portrays Felix’s state of mind as we are completely absorbed into his world. You do not have to read The Tempest prior to reading Hag-Seed in order to fully enjoy it as it does stand quite nicely on its own. I have not read the Shakespearean play, however this book does inspire me to pick it up and experience all the themes that were discussed throughout Felix’s class and production.

*ARC provided by NetGalley. Publication date October 11, 2016.

Books in the series:img_3121

1. The Gap of Time by Jeanette Winterson

2. Shylock Is My Name by Howard Jacobson

3. Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler

4. Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood

Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler

IMG_2030“Kate Battista feels stuck. How did she end up running house and home for her eccentric scientist father and uppity, pretty younger sister Bunny?”

Now that is a good question.  Kate is definitely stuck.  Stuck in a living situation that is not ideal, stuck in a family dynamic that is not always easy, and stuck in a job she doesn’t care about and simply fell into.  Her father is finally hitting his stride with his research and is possibly about to make a breakthrough.  However, the fact that his brilliant assistant Pyotr is months away from being deported is a big problem.  A problem that Dr. Battista feels could be solved by Kate herself. However, can Kate be convinced to take part in his scheme?

Inspired by Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, Vinegar Girl is a light and easy read.  Having not read the Shakespearean play I can only share my take on the novel as a contemporary story.  Unfortunately, as a contemporary story it does fall flat and did not work for me in a few different ways.  Kate is a 29 year-old modern woman, which makes a lot of her choices and behaviour confusing and at times frustrating.  The motivation behind her actions is never fully explored or explained, and the immaturity of her general attitude is quite tiresome.  Similarly, Pyotr is a one-note character whose intentions and feelings are confusing, plus his portrayal as “the foreigner” comes off as stereotypical and not humorous, which is what I assume was the intention. The story overall does not live up to the fun and quirky potential of the premise.

*ARC provided by NetGalley.  Publication date: June 21, 2016.