Juliet’s Answer is an entertaining, light-hearted travel memoir that may make you want to do at least one of three things:
- Visit Verona and see Casa di Guilietta for yourself.
- Volunteer as one of Juliet’s secretaries and answer some of the thousands of heartfelt letters sent to Juliet every year.
- Send your own letter to Juliet and possibly take that one big leap of faith in whatever romantic wish you may have.
I don’t usually consider myself a romantic, but it’s difficult not to get swept away by Glenn Dixon’s account of his time in Verona. I can almost imagine the house he describes, with the balcony added on for Shakespeare fans and with the dozens of letters stuffed in a red mailbox and stuck to the walls with Band-aids or gum. There’s a hope inherent in the very act of writing to Juliet, and a rather innocent belief in the kind of love Juliet represents. Dixon’s story reminds me of how beautiful that hope can be, and how much it reflects the hopefulness as well in Shakespeare’s tragedy, that a romance between two teens can be so powerful that it can end generations of hatred between families.
The letters Dixon writes about are lovely glimpses into the heartfelt longings of people around the world. There are young girls who worry about getting a cute guy to notice them, older women who wonder if they’ll have another chance at love, and in one of my personal favourites, a father and a daughter who wrote separate letters about dealing with the aftermath of a mother who walked away from her family.
Juliet’s Answer is similar to Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat Pray Love in that, like Gilbert, Dixon also travels to Verona to get some distance from an experience of heartbreak, though in his case it’s the unrequited love he feels for a close friend. Verona seems like a great place to lose oneself in, and while I’m not quite sure answering love letters is the best way to get over someone who doesn’t love you back, I think volunteering at the Juliet Club sounds like a lot of fun. The book includes images of Verona and an illustrated map one can use for a walking tour of the city.
Along with Verona, another major highlight for me are the sections about the students in Dixon’s Shakespeare class, who are studying Romeo and Juliet. It’s fun to read their unguarded reactions to the text, as teens around Romeo and Juliet’s age who are encountering the story for the first time. I also particularly enjoyed reading about the crush a student named Andy had for his classmate Allison, and loved Andy’s reaction when they had to perform a scene together. Another strong subplot was that of another student, Sadia, for whom Juliet’s story resonated on a personal level. I realize that the book is about Verona and the author’s own love story, but I couldn’t help wishing we knew how these students’ stories turned out (there’s a part at the end where he speculates about their futures, but I figure we’ll never know for sure). Did Andy and Allison ever end up dating? Who does troublemaker Devin eventually date? Does Sadia eventually find her own Romeo? Within their few scenes discussing a Shakespeare play, these students have come to life on the page, and I blame the author’s Verona for my desire to know they’ve all had their romantic happily ever afters.
Overall, Juliet’s Answer is a lovely tribute to Verona and to the numerous people around the world who believe in the kind of love Juliet personifies.There’s a part in the story where the author drafts his own letter to Juliet, admitting his doubt that he’ll find love himself. This book seems the perfect response to this letter. Juliet’s Answer is a love letter of sorts, a resounding yes to the existence of love, and to the belief that some version of a happily ever after is possible.
Glenn Dixon’s Photo Gallery
All images and captions courtesy of the author.
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Thank you to Simon and Schuster Canada for an advance reading copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.