The Ghostly Father
A re-telling of Romeo and Juliet
by Sue Barnard
* Book Spotlight *
Publication Date: 2018 (revised version; originally published 2014)
Publisher: Ocelot Press
Genre: Historical Fiction
Audiobook Narrators: Danielle Cohen and Philip Rose
Was this what really happened to Romeo & Juliet?
Think you know the world’s most famous love story? Think again. What if the story of Romeo & Juliet really happened – but not quite in the way we’ve all been led to believe?
This part-prequel, part-sequel to the original tale, told from the point of view of the Friar, tells how an ancient Italian manuscript reveals secrets and lies which have remained hidden for hundreds of years, and casts new doubts on the official story of Shakespeare’s famous star-crossed lovers.
If you love the Romeo & Juliet story but are disappointed with the way it ended, this is the book for you.
"For never was a story of more woe
Than this of Juliet and her Romeo."
These two lines are the final words spoken in William Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet – the iconic story of young love which goes so tragically wrong.
It’s now more than forty years since I first saw Franco Zeffirelli’s wonderful film of Romeo & Juliet, first released in 1968. There wasn’t a dry eye in the cinema at the end, and I came away thinking: This is the world’s greatest love story – so why does it have to end so badly?
That question haunted me for decades. Then, just over ten years ago, I chanced across one of those lists of Things You Must Do Before You Die. The one which caught my attention was Write The Book You Want To Read. The book I’ve always wanted to read is the alternative version of Romeo & Juliet – the one in which the star-crossed lovers don’t fall victim to a maddeningly preventable catastrophe.
Why, I asked myself, should there not be such a book? And the answer came straight back: Why not indeed? And if it doesn’t already exist, then go ahead and write it.
The premise is based on a simple idea: What if the story of Romeo & Juliet really did happen – but not quite how we’ve all been led to believe? If just one of the events in the story had happened differently, how would that have affected what followed?
The eventual result was my debut novel The Ghostly Father. The title is based on a quotation from the play (it’s how Romeo addresses the character of Friar Lawrence), and the story, which is a sort of part-prequel, part-sequel to the original tale, is told from the Friar’s point of view. I’ve always been fascinated by the character of the Friar, and have often wondered why, in the play, he behaved as he did. How did he know about the sleeping potion which brings about “the likeness of death”? And why did he take such massive risks to help the young lovers? By giving him what I hope is an interesting and thought-provoking backstory, I’ve tried to offer some possible answers. Plus, of course, I wanted to reduce the overall body-count, and give the lovers themselves a rather less tragic outcome.
The Ghostly Father was first published by Crooked Cat Books on St Valentine’s Day 2014. Following reversion of rights in 2018, a slightly revised edition was released that same year via Ocelot Press. An audiobook version is also available, beautifully narrated by Danielle Cohen and Philip Rose.
In the nine years since the book’s first appearance, the number of people who have bought it, read it, and have been kind enough to say they’ve enjoyed it, suggests that I’m not by any means the only person who prefers the alternative version. If you too love the story of Romeo & Juliet but find the ending frustrating, why not give The Ghostly Father a try?
The Ghostly Father is available to read on #KindleUnlimited.
Sue Barnard is a British novelist and award-winning poet who was born in North Wales some time during the last millennium. She speaks French like a Belgian, German like a schoolgirl, and Italian and Portuguese like an Englishwoman abroad. Her mind is so warped that she has appeared on BBC TV’s Only Connect quiz show, and she has also compiled questions for BBC Radio 4's fiendishly difficult Round Britain Quiz. This once caused one of her sons to describe her as "professionally weird”. The label has stuck.
She is also very interested in family history. Her own family background is far stranger than any work of fiction. She would write a book about it if she thought anybody would believe her.
Sue now lives in Cheshire, UK, with her extremely patient husband and a large collection of unfinished scribblings.