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Carol J. (Isle, MN)
An intriguing idea for a book. We all know Shakespeare' s "Romeo and Juliet"; now we know a bit more of the backstory.
Jeannie T. (Lexington, KY)
A Must Read
Although what I enjoyed most about the book was the peek into the life of everyday Veronans. And how the plague significantly changed their lives and the view of life going forward. To loose all your children after you worked to hard to keep them safe!
I have to say, Pietro was my favorite character. What a great spirit. The focus on bees was also interesting; especially given our current crisis with our pollinators.
Loved the sprinklings of humor. But felt it got bogged down in trying to be too authentic to the times in language.
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.
Darra W. (Walnut Creek, CA)
Fresh Slant on a Shakespearean Classic
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.
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.
Marianne S. (Ulysses, KS)
Armchair Trip to Historic Italy
This is the imagined story of Juliet's nurse from Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. I enjoyed it. My husband and I went to Italy a year ago for our daughter's wedding, and I've since developed an interest in Italian history. The book is true to its times, which is important to me. However, the nurse was obsessive about Juliet to an extent that I found somewhat unrealistic. There were some twists in the plot that were surprising to me, although I don't think Shakespeare would have approved of them. The nurse had some character flaws, but so do real people. Still, it was an interesting armchair trip back to historic Italy for me.
Colleen T. (Lakewood, CO)
Writing a story from the nurse of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet point of view is inventive and original. I thoroughly enjoyed the story and kept replaying the movie in my mind during the reading. The author, Lois Leveen, did a meticulous job of presenting the era and the people involved, giving the reader a enhanced image of the time period. Leveen also gives an additional surprise to the storyline – which I loved and which I will not reveal – so it is definitely worth the time to read the book.
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!