I listen to a podcast weekly regarding books, and one of the big topics they routinely discuss is diversity in books and “seeing” ourselves in the characters. In other words if you are white you see characters being white, if you are female you see the characters being female. I always thought I was rather well read and able to separate myself from the characters and writers. This book proved me so very wrong! I had seen the cover of this book at the book store and read the synopsis quickly and made assumptions based on them. I started reading this book thinking that it was written by a woman and that it was a fictitious tale. I was about 30 pages in before I realized how wrong I was.
Juliet’s Answer is a true story written by a Canadian man who travels to Verona, Italy. His goal is to try to understand love. You see, he has been in love with his best friend Claire for many years, and while they are very close, she has not shown the same feelings towards him. Dixon wants to understand why, and learn what he can do to sway her to love him romantically. He goes to the Club di Giulietta, where a handful of volunteers respond to the thousands upon thousands of letters they receive. People all over the world write their tales of woe to Juliet, history’s most famous subject of love, and ask for her guidance. All of these letters arrive at a beautiful red mailbox outside of the house that Juliet is believed to have lived, and the volunteers take over their care, respond in kind, and mail their responses. Glenn volunteers to act as one of Juliet’s secretaries, answering letters received from all over the world, and from all age groups, all the while trying to understand love himself. He even writes a letter himself to Juliet, hoping to find a way to convince Claire to love him. At first Dixon struggles to answer the letters; after all how can he answer their questions of love when he is there to learn about love himself. He gradually becomes more confident in his answers, and he learns that people the world over are all looking for the same thing. They all want to be loved and accepted. It’s universal.
The story is told in chapters that alternate from his time in Verona to his time in the classroom, where he teaches Shakespeare’s most infamous play: Romeo and Juliet. And I have to tell you, he seems like a fabulous teacher! He seems to be so engaged with his students, trying to find a way to bring Shakespeare into our time, to allow the students to truly understand what is being conveyed. If I had a teacher like him in high school teaching Romeo and Juliet, I might have gotten more out of it, and appreciated it more. Sure, we watched the Leonardo DiCaprio version of the movie, which was fun in its own way, but I can’t say I really understood Shakespeare the way Dixon’s kids will now from his teachings. He also throws in discussions of love in terms of science, which I found really interesting!
The book was a nice and easy read, but I learned so much about Romeo and Juliet, both as a play, but also that they may not be as fictitious as we think, there is evidence to suggest that they were real people. And I did love the fact he had pictures in the book (how I figured out this was a true story!), from his time in Verona. Yet at times I found myself very frustrated with Dixon. I know how hard it is to love someone that doesn’t love you back, but sooner or later you have to come to terms with this and move on to someone who truly deserves you. Still, it was hard to read about Dixon writing a letter to try to sway Claire, and his plans to woo her to him, which all came crashing down around him. I was also slightly disappointed in his actions at the end regarding his friendship with Claire; I get it, I just didn’t think it had to be the way it turned out. I will let you read the book to determine whether Dixon gets his happily ever after or not.