Book Reviews


Romeo and Juliet. A Modern Sequel

James Edwards: Romeo and Juliet. A Modern Sequel.

Publisher: Romeo Publishing. ISBN: 978-0-6151-4730-7. Pages: 351

This is going to be a very difficult book to review for many reasons. The author, James Edwards, doesn't say who designed the cover for his novel. But it represents the famous lovers, in an Egyptian guise, among flowers in Hawaii. It's a bright, magical and mysterious book cover. To be fair to Mr. Edwards he writes in English marvellously, though he splits his infinitives. It's what he's written about that I find hard to come to terms with.

William Shakespeare wasn't the first person to write the story of Romeo and Juliet. Telling that legendary tale was a tradition long before he did it. Masuccion Salernitano told the story in 1476, and Luigi de Porto in 1550. But Shakespeare's version is by far the best known. And, in my opinion, it takes a brave man to attempt to follow in his footsteps.

Central to my analysis I propose that it's the notion of tragedy which makes Romeo and Juliet's story such an enduring legend. As I've noted, it was already more than a hundred years old when Shakespeare wrote his version. We don't have room to discuss tragedy here. But let me say that Edwards' version of the story isn't a tragedy. It's a very peculiar love story which is set in a constantly evolving fantasy world.

In Edwards' rendition, Romeo and Emilie, (Juliet's name has been replaced, ) meet in an Internet chat room. And these days, amongst other things, Romeo is a computer programmer. Juliet/Emilie, by contrast, is a Hollywood starlet.

In my personal view Edwards struggles with the notion of fate, which is central to our understanding of the lovers' predicament. And unlike Shakespeare, and other tragic writers, who predicate their messages on the cruelties of fortune, Edwards deals with fate in multiple ways. He shifts the couple backwards and forwards in time; they're both sometimes ancient Egyptian lovers. But, for the most of the book, he writes computer software and she is a movie star. Then Edwards gives them the trials of modern life, such as Hollywood publicity agencies, the inflated ego of a particular thespian philanderer, and grasping parents to deal with.

But unfortunately, in my view, by doing what he does, Edwards robs the story of Romeo and Juliet of almost all of its poignancy. Cruel Fortune, in many ways the villain of the famous and ancient legend, is replaced by banal details of celebrity life and titillating Internet sex-chat.

Just as writing my analysis was hard, making my recommendations is so too. I can say with some confidence that this book is unlike any other that I've come across. If you've a liking for books, however strange or fantastic, which set themselves apart, you might give this one a try and enjoy it.

However, if you prefer linear plots, conventional and realistic stories, or, to put it crudely, stories which simply make sense, then you might find this book extremely frustrating.

Review by Patrick Mackeown, October 2007


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