Sunday, December 23, 2018

Book Review: Still Star Crossed

What happened after the death of Romeo and Juliet? Did the families stop fighting as the Prince instructed? How did the death of the two young lovers affect the lives of those around them? Melinda Taub imagines a world after Romeo and Juliet with her book, Still, Star Crossed, which, incidentally, became a TV series produced by no less than Shonda Rhimes.

book review
I don't know about that cover...I thought it didn't do Rosaline justice. I imagined her stronger than that.

The story begins just weeks after the death of Romeo and Juliet, just as the Prince, Escalus (yes, he has a name apparently, I don’t remember him being mentioned by name by Shakespeare), suddenly has an idea to put an end to the rift between the Capulets and the Montagues by binding them together in marriage – this time an arranged marriage between Rosaline (Juliet’s cousin) and Benvolio (Romeo’s cousin).

For the non-Shakespeare fans, Rosaline happens to be the young woman that Romeo first fell in love with and was mentioned in Romeo and Juliet. Benvolio, on the other hand, was also in Romeo and Juliet. He was the one who encouraged Romeo to go to the party where he got to meet Juliet.

As can be expected, while the two families agreed to the Prince’s idea, both parties are not exactly willing participants in the arrangement. For one, Rosaline and Benvolio bicker like a married couple (I love this hate-turns-into-love trope). The Montague and Capulet boys are still fighting with each other and defending their respective families like it’s no one’s business. There’s also the matter of Rosaline still having feelings for a childhood love, a man she cannot be with anyway.

While the book retains some characters from the original Shakespeare, this is still a completely different story. Nevertheless, it was nice to have familiar characters who had crucial roles in the original in this book like the nurse and the priest.

The book tries to use language like that of Shakespeare’s but sometimes reverts to the modern language, which gives you a feel that it is a continuation of the previous story but still a very new and different one at the same time. I’ve read other reviews that said that they found this confusing but it didn’t feel that way to me. I think it’s all a matter of perspective.

What I loved about the book is that it had very strong female characters. Rosaline and her sister Livia were both presented as very strong-willed young women but in very different ways. They both ended up doing amazing things by the end of the book. It would have been interesting to see if the TV show would have done them justice but sadly, the show was canceled before it could finish the story.

I thought that this book, based on the title Still Star Crossed, would have a similar sad ending as the story that preceded it. I thought that this would be more of another tragic love story rather than the mix of romance, drama, intrigue, mystery, and action-adventure that it actually is. I think that helped to make the read interesting for me. There was more than one facet to the story and as much as you got to know the characters, you did not know what to expect from them once the situation was presented to them. It was entertaining and I was looking forward to seeing how this will all play out on TV. From what I’ve seen from the Instagram accounts of one of the actors in the series, they’ve shot in several locations that make the look of the show more realistic compared to filming this from a studio set. It's really too bad that it didn't do well enough for it to at least finish the story in one season.

This book reminded me of something that still blows my mind about Romeo and Juliet: the two were very young teenagers when they fell in love. The lead characters in this book are also very young. It amazes me how they all live such grown-up lives and make such mature decisions considering their ages. I guess that’s why Romeo and Juliet are usually played by actors older than the actual age of the characters (and that’s also why I forget why they are so young). The TV series casting also shows older actors playing the lead roles.

If you loved Romeo and Juliet and are fascinated by that story and period, you would enjoy reading this book. I think that it is entertaining and an easy read. Too bad about the TV show.

Cover Credit: Penguin Random House

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