Publisher: Manilla Press/Zaffre
Format: Ebook, Audio, Hardback (3 August 2023) | Paperback to follow
Source: Copy for review
THE GREATEST EVER LOVE STORY WAS A LIE . . .
The first time Romeo Montague sees young Rosaline Capulet he falls instantly in love.
Rosaline, headstrong and independent, is unsure of Romeo’s attentions but with her father determined that she join a convent, this handsome and charming stranger offers her the chance of a different life.
Soon though, Rosaline begins to doubt all that Romeo has told her. She breaks off the match, only for Romeo’s gaze to turn towards her cousin, thirteen-year-old Juliet. Gradually Rosaline realises that it is not only Juliet’s reputation at stake, but her life.
With only hours remaining before she will be banished behind the nunnery walls, will Rosaline save Juliet from her Romeo? Or can this story only ever end one way?
A subversive, powerful untelling of Shakespeare’s best-known tale, narrated by a fierce, forgotten voice: this is Rosaline’s story.
Hamnet meets My Dark Vanessa in this fierce, feminist, intensely gripping novel; captivating and chillingly relevant, FAIR ROSALINE takes everything you thought you knew about Romeo and Juliet and turns it on its head . . .
My thanks to Anne of Random Things Tours for the invite and to the publisher for the copy to review.
I freely admit that having to study Macbeth for O’Level at school put me off Shakespeare. Although I know the outline, I’ve never seen or read Romeo and Juliet so have nothing to compare this to. As a result I just enjoyed this for what it was. Excellent storytelling that I found utterly gripping in places and with characters that stirred the emotions. In my view this Romeo was a jealous controlling unfaithful creep and I felt every sympathy for both Rosaline and Juliet, being caught in his web of deceit.
When 15 year old Rosaline Capulet learns following her mother’s death that her fate is to live the rest of her life as a nun she is horrified at the thought of being incarcerated in this way and during the remaining short period of freedom allowed to her she attends a Montague masquerade ball. She meets Romeo and their story begins.
Rosaline is very much in love with Romeo however the feuding between their two families means their love has to remain a secret, until they are wed. The only friend she has is her cousin, the young impetuous Tybalt but she cannot even confide in him. Events escalate and Romeo turns his attention to her younger cousin Juliet, still only 13.
This untelling of a classic has Rosaline narrating the story. The reader is left in doubt of her love for Romeo which almost borders upon obsession however his predatory nature reaches Rosalind’s ears and love turns to hate. With its Verona setting, the corruption and fetid stench of the city highlights the differences between the rich and poor and makes for an atmospheric and evocative read. I was with Rosaline every step as she seeks to protect her innocent and naive Juliet who has already fallen under Romeo’s spell, much like Rosalind before her epiphany as to Romeo’s true nature and the scale of his manipulation. Rosaline had felt that Romeo was the only one who really understood her; to her family she was an expense and inconvenience and of no value resulting in her banishment to the convent.
The females of this story had very little control over their lives or even who they married. Girls of just 13 were forced into marriage to older wealthy men by their parents and what we would now regard as grooming was happening without anyone seeming to care.
The narrative and dialogue is a mix of old and new language but nevertheless it is so easy to read. The Author’s notes at the end were particularly interesting as she describes how she created this Rosaline and the imagined setting of ‘Verona-upon-Avon’. I very much enjoyed this alternative version of a classic tale and was completely absorbed in this powerful and spellbinding story.
Natasha Solomons is the author of seven internationally bestselling novels, including Mr Rosenblum’s List, The Novel in the Viola, which was chosen for the Richard & Judy Book Club, and I, Mona Lisa. Her work has been translated into seventeen languages, and Fair Rosaline is her latest work. She lives in Dorset with her family.
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