Thursday, October 23, 2014

Juliet's Nurse by Lois Leveen

An enthralling new telling of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet—told from the perspective of Juliet’s nurse.

In Verona, a city ravaged by plague and political rivalries, a mother mourning the death of her day-old infant enters the household of the powerful Cappelletti family to become the wet-nurse to their newborn baby. As she serves her beloved Juliet over the next fourteen years, the nurse learns the Cappellettis’ darkest secrets. Those secrets—and the nurse’s deep personal grief—erupt across five momentous days of love and loss that destroy a daughter, and a family.

By turns sensual, tragic, and comic, Juliet’s Nurse gives voice to one of literature’s most memorable and distinctive characters, a woman who was both insider and outsider among Verona’s wealthy ruling class. Exploring the romance and intrigue of interwoven loyalties, rivalries, jealousies, and losses only hinted at in Shakespeare’s play, this is a never-before-heard tale of the deepest love in Verona—the love between a grieving woman and the precious child of her heart.

In the tradition of Sarah Dunant, Philippa Gregory, and Geraldine Brooks, Juliet’s Nurse is a rich prequel that reimagines the world’s most cherished tale of love and loss, suffering and survival.


Juliet’s Nurse is a splendidly written historical novel loosely based upon the story of Romeo and Juliet as written by Shakespeare. The story centers around a young woman named Angelica who becomes wet-nurse to Juliet Cappelletti on the same day her own child dies in childbirth. The novel covers the early years of Juiet’s life and introduces the family feud between Romeo and Juliet’s families. Told through Angelica’s strong first person narrative, we learn of how she is torn from the arms of her dirt-poor family by the machinations of a cleric and into the household of one of Verona’s most wealthiest citizens as a nursemaid. The novel focuses on the early life of Juliet. Her love affair with Romeo is not introduced into the latter quarter of the novel.

This sometimes heart-wrenching story is poignantly penned, bringing to vivid life the Italian Renaissance era where decadence and art warred with poverty and plague. This was a story of extreme hardship and suffering, of guilt and powerful love, and of one woman’s struggle to hold tight to the bonds of love she bears for the child she is charged with raising. From the adversities faced by the working poor to the opulent villas of the noblest families, the story is one of dark secrets and joyous love relationships. A lovely re-imagining of one of Shakespeare’s original characters. 

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