The most captivating, powerful and subversive retelling you'll read this year
by Natasha Solomons
Narrated by Natasha Solomons; Sheila Atim
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Pub Date 3 Aug 2023 | Archive Date Not set
Bonnier UK Audio, Manilla Press
One of the most anticipated novels of the year - the captivating and powerful untelling of Romeo & Juliet . . .
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 . . .
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Average rating from 20 members
What if Romeo wasn't really a Romeo?
This is a story of seduction and gaslighting, of power and manipulation. But it is also about women taking back control in a very interesting (and intense) historical setting. Love, family and revenge... I loved it.
This is Romeo and Juliet like you've never seen it before!
Okay, listen. The roses? The bees? Rosaline? This book may honestly have been cherry-picked especially for me. Romeo and Juliet is was the first Shakespeare play I ever encountered and I have now read, watched, and experienced countless iterations of it. My favourite movie of all time, even still, is the 1996 Romeo + Juliet (yes. the Leo DiCaprio/Claire Danes one that you either hate or love). I've read the original (is there such a thing as an original Shakespeare play? No. Let's not get into that here.) endless times. So now that I've bragged about my credentials, let's see what Fair Rosaline had in store for us. I'm honestly not sure I was ready for what Fair Rosaline did, but boy did I enjoy it. Rosaline being a grieving girl who just lost her mother and is now being sent to a convent? Romeo being the ultimate fuckboy? Juliet, ever innocent, at less than fourteen? Honestly, this book took the few lines we get about Rosaline and made her the main catalyst of the play. When it comes to retelling the lesser-developed characters in an established piece of work, it can become tricky to balance their involvement with the story we know and the new story being told, but Solomons did an incredible job at finding just the right part for Rosaline to play in the fate of our well-known tragic lovers. I won't spoil anything, of course, but just know that rooting for Rosaline becomes damn near inevitable towards the middle of this book. Not only is she a multifaceted character, both naïve and bold, but she is a product of her time and of this time combined. It was lovely to see Solomons including values of our time and values of the time the book is set and seemlessly blend the two. And as for Romeo... Well let's just say I've never seen a Romeo portrayed quite as much as a player and – let's be honest – a creep as in this. It was a refreshing take and still very believable considering the source material. When I tell you I was kicking and screaming about the marzipan rose...
I would not be doing my due diligence in this review if I did not mention the narration of the audiobook that was kindly provided for me. Sheila Atim does a great job at capturing the voice of each character, of Rosaline in particular, and of the story itself. Her gentle cadence is one I truly enjoyed (even at my usual 2.5x speed!) and took care to listen to. I particularly liked her line deliverance on some of the more intense chapter endings – they left me wanting more. Let's just say taking out my headphones was my least favourite time of day while this was playing. All in all, Dear Rosaline by Natasha Solomons deserves a high praise from this retelling-enthusiast and it takes an invaluable place in the many Romeo and Juliet retellings out there.
This was a slow start for me, but once it got going I really enjoyed this untelling.
We all know the story of Romeo & Juliet, but what happens in Fair Rosaline flips it on it's head in the most fantastic manner. This is a love story, but not between Romeo & Rosaline, or even Romeo & Juliet, it is the love Rosaline has for her family & lengths she'll go to to protect them. It is a story of women undone by men, fighting back subtly in the only way they can.
Here Natasha Solomans reimagines the 'romantic tragedy' casting a vastly different light on the well loved tale, utilising the lyrical language of Romeo & Juliet in a clever, subversive manner. How many times has Romeo delivered those polished lines? Can true love be donned & shed as easily as one would a coat?
The narration was really well done & I found myself with a lump in my throat from emotion a few times, which for me means I've been fully engaged with a story.
I particularly loved the interview between narrator & author at the end of the audio. It's always interesting to hear where & how ideas developed & to reflect on what you've just read.
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