Author: Kathryn Barker
Publisher: Allen and Unwin
Publication Date: 2 March 2021
Copy: Borrowed from my local Library

I couldn’t even tell you where I came across my first introduction to Waking Romeo but the idea of a story that brought two of my favourite classics together was one not to be missed. I headed straight to Goodreads to check out the synopsis and knew that I needed to read it.

Wuthering Heights and Romeo and Juliet…. yes please. I was intrigued about how it would work at the very least and I made sure I went in with little expectation because the synopsis just screamed out of this world.

I don’t usually add the synopsis to my reviews but I really think that Waking Romeo is a special case because it is definitely a little tricky to fathom.

Synopsis from the Allen and Unwin website:

What if Juliet Capulet met someone who made her doubt true love? What if Wuthering Heights was a message to a time traveller? A cosmic reimagining of Romeo and Juliet and homage to two literary classics in a compelling novel about fate, love and time travel from an award-winning author.

YEAR: 2083. LOCATION: LONDON. MISSION: WAKE ROMEO.

It’s the end of the world. Literally. Time travel is possible, but only forwards. And only a handful of families choose to remain in the ‘now’, living off the scraps that were left behind. Among these are eighteen-year-old Juliet and the love of her life, Romeo. But things are far from rosy for Jules. Romeo is in a coma and she’s estranged from her friends and family, dealing with the very real fallout of their wild romance. Then a handsome time traveller, Ellis, arrives with an important mission that makes Jules question everything she knows about life and love. Can Jules wake Romeo and rewrite her future?

A highly original mashup that delights as it disorients … and asks what would have happened if two great literary love stories were somehow intertwined.

Waking Romeo – Kathryn Barker – 9781760297152 – Allen & Unwin – Australia (allenandunwin.com)

I love Romeo and Juliet, Wuthering Heights is one of my favourite books of all time and the idea of them together was beyond intriguing. Time Travel, now that’s a different matter because I struggle to get my head around the hows. I realise we are in a fictional universe and this is all made up but I tend to try and analyse how anyway and time travel very much makes my head want to explode.

Trying to work out how to review this books makes my head want to explode because there is so much to it, there is so much subtlety and interwoven threads, everything is connected, and I don’t want to risk ruining anything by giving things away.

Time travel is a major plot point so it should come as no surprise that the story is told in multiple time periods, always demonstrating that time is not linear. I have read, and watched, my fair share of time travel stories and it is always very important to make sure that you are not seen, especially not by another version of yourself, and you don’t change anything because if you do it could have catastrophic consequences. I have always wondered how that could possibly work and how you could just end up with multiple versions of yourself in the same place. There is only one of you so how can there be three different versions of you at the same place in any given moment in time.

The future that needs to be saved is bigger than just the main characters of the story and that’s where it all started feeling a little bit bigger than the two historical tragedies. I started getting a real sense of Terminator and Sarah Connor through the narrative also.

Baker has sown the seeds of Shakespeare throughout this entire novel, he is present on every page. Actually that might be a slight exaggeration but only slight, sometimes it might be a Shakespearean feel and other times his actual words are used or his storytelling is referenced. The Bard is well and truly present in this story. Baker also presents the stories of Romeo and Juliet, and Heathcliff, differently to the way we know them in the novels and she did it so beautifully.

Waking Romeo is complex and original; it is definitely thought-provoking and it won’t be leaving my mind any time soon. It brought characters that I know and love to life in a whole new light, and Baker changed their stories enough to make it her own without taking anything away from the classics in the way that she used their stories for inspiration.

There were a couple of amazing twists that I hadn’t thought about and they just added to the intrigue and enjoyment. Baker has included aspects of all time periods in the novel and they all fit, nothing feels out of place and her message is timeless.

‘Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive’ may not be a Shakespeare quote but it is certainly Shakespearean and tangled webs have quite a substantial importance in ‘Waking Romeo’; but they aren’t tangled webs of lies, they are tangled webs of experience and moments and events that make the tapestry of time and each thread has a profound effect on every other thread, meaning the smallest change can reap the largest consequence.

If you like science fiction and a heavy dose of dystopia but still appreciate the classics I think you could really enjoy this one, I certainly did. The time travel took some getting used to and working out the rules was no walk in the park because they kept changing, kind of like real life I guess.

Waking Romeo is a fantastic read if you want to completely escape reality and can absolutely suspend disbelief to get lost in an alternate world where technology took over and much of humanity’s need to get to the next better thing ruined civilisation. I loved it, and I would actually love to read it again to see what else I could take from it – but I also want to read it again for the first time so I’m still struck by it’s unique nature.

Waking Romeo is published by Allen and Unwin and is available now where all good books are sold.