Jeannie T. (Lexington, KY)
A Must Read
Reading Juliet's Nurse was like finishing a jigsaw puzzle and discovering the picture for the first time. It had been years since I read Romeo and Juliet, and I will admit a play that I was lukewarm about, but this book told from the perspective of the wet nurse pulled everything together. I enjoyed it more than the original play by Shakespeare! The writing was beautiful and well crafted. She used just enough Shakespearean dialogue but did not over do it and distract from the story. This author enabled the nurse to tell the story, but developed each character so well, that each one had a voice. This telling of Romeo and Juliet puts Angelica center stage and a lifetime of tragedies unfolded. This would be a terrific book club read.
Therese X. (Calera, AL)
The Birth of a Great Italian Love Story
Verona, Italy, during the Great Plague years was filled with poverty, death and wealthy, grand families who were able to hire the poor to fill roles such as a "wet nurse" to a newborn princess. (Unfortunately, the "wet nurse" must have given birth recently to a child who was, alas, unable to benefit from its mother's milk.) A late life baby surprised poor couple Angela and Pietro who welcomed the idea of new life to comfort them, having lost five sons to the ghastly plague in a sad past. However, the birth was difficult despite the effort of the mother and the midwife and the elderly couple lost a daughter. They are heartbroken especially as it's Lammas Day, a holy day represented by an icon of the Blessed Virgin and Child. Because of Pietro's wife's plentiful supply of milk for the ghostly child, he finds a newborn who needs feeding in the rich and respectable Capelletti family where the fourteen year old mother mourns having given her husband a mere daughter instead of an heir and refuses to feed her. Baby Juliet was to have her new nurse with her until she is weaned, but their lives intertwined so deeply that the nurse is allowed to care for and guide Juliet into womanhood---even to the fateful meeting of her true love, Romeo. This novel is so engrossing from page one, the reader feels as if transported to a living time with the turbulent history, vivid characters and palpable atmosphere of that time in Verona. Highly recommended.
Estella P. (New York, NY)
A new point of view on an ageless story
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, its historical placement and the fleshing out of characters that only briefly appear in Shakespeare's tale. This is the story of the nurse and her incredible attachment and relationship with the child – Juliet – for whom she serves as wet-nurse and ultimately her confidant.
Told entirely from the nurse's perspective, 14th century Verona springs to life – the plague, the violence on the streets, and the incredible divide between rich and poor which is eloquently portrayed by the contrasts of the nurse's life pre-Juliet and her life in the wealthy Cappelletti family. The first half presents Juliet's childhood – the second half provides the path which leads to Shakespeare's ultimate ending – all through the loving eyes of the wet-nurse.
This is definitely a book that would provide great discussions in a book club. Great read.
Darra W. (Walnut Creek, CA)
Fresh Slant on a Shakespearean Classic
The players are familiar; the story as well. Even some of the (exact) dialogue has been heard before. No problem. Ms. Leveen has created an intriguing (and plausible) backstory for the tragedy in Verona, and she has done it in a style and a voice that honor her source, while still maintaining a surprising level of suspense. Chalk it up to the point of view; we only learn of unfolding events as they are revealed to Angelica, young Juliet's nurse. Before the last page was turned, I was pulling Shakespeare off the shelf. I absolutely LOVED this book--a great book club selection, particularly read in tandem with the play.
Rita M., Miami, FL
A fun and insightful read
An immensely enjoyable, engaging backstory to R&J. Leveen has unfolded a masterful account of Angelica, revealing a take on the bawdy and likeable nurse's history, motivations, personality, and perspective on the 14 years leading up to the young lovers' end, all told in a compelling and entertaining narrative that is hard to put down. We learn of Angelica's tenacity through her virtue and humor. The author has aligned her tale well with events and characters in the original R&J, as well as historically accurate references to the time, adding so much more dimension to R&J, if that's possible (all due respects to The Bard). It is also a great reading in literary perspective and an in-depth character study, although as a teacher, I would hesitate assigning this to students younger than high school due to the many sexual references (which, if you know the nurse, cannot be left out of the story!). If you love Shakespeare (and R&J in particular), history, Renaissance period fiction, prequels, or just an all-out good story, I highly recommend this book!
Mary D. (Claremont, CA)
And now for a completely different take on the Romeo and Juliet story! Author Lois Leveen tells this famous tale from the perspective of Juliet's nurse, who first came to Juliet as a wet-nurse when her own baby died at birth. While I did not especially like some of the characters as people, the historical background, word-painting, descriptions of the life and times is rich and excellent.
I had a vivid image of the times, especially the differences between the rich and the poor, attitudes of ownership and entitlement, lines that could and could not be crossed. There are plenty of turns and twists in this story and I did find myself saying "Just one more chapter" at odd hours of the night. My only 'complaint' is that while Ms. Leveen went with the Italian names of characters, (Cappeletti, Montecchi, etc.) she stayed with 'Juliet' rather than using the Italian "Guiletta." Small complaint, truly!
Patricia S. (Yankton, SD)
what Shakespeare didn't tell us
We all read Romeo and Juliet in high school and may have enjoyed one or more of the movie versions of the tale. But little is known about the nurse, the third most important person in the play. Lois Leveen corrects this omission in her novel Juliet's Nurse. Combining the history of the Plague in Verona and the few details Shakespeare has given us, Leveen fleshes out the life of the nurse and all the other major characters and invents believable characters which involve the reader's interest and emotions. I loved this book and read it all in two sittings.