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Thursday, November 13, 2014

Book Review: Juliet's Nurse by Lois Leveen


Juliet’s Nurse by Lois Leveen
Unabridged, 10 hr. 44 min.
Simon & Schuster AUdio
Nicola Barber (Narrator)
September 23, 2014

Genre: Historical Fiction

Source: Received the audio download from the publisher for review

“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.”

There are so many wonderful things to say about this novel, let’s see if I can get my thoughts in some sort of order here!

Juliet’s Nurse is NOT just a retelling of Romeo and Juliet from the perspective of a side character from Shakespeare’s play. It is so much more bold and rich that that description would imply. Juliet’s Nurse follows the titular character throughout her time in service to the Cappelletti from the day Juliet is born through the days following her death. We find out about her husband and children, how she came to end up being Juliet’s nurse, and what she thought about all of those antics that occurred between the two rival families. Anjelica (the nurse does have a real name!) is a hilarious, passionate, and devoted woman who I enjoyed learning more about throughout this novel.

The bulk of this novel takes place in the years preceding the meeting of Romeo and Juliet – and I was actually quite thankful for this. I loved seeing young Juliet and Tybalt and learning about their relationship – the nurse was basically the mother to both of them. Tybalt became one of my favorite characters in this novel which was a surprise. I think part of the reason why I preferred the early years is because Anjelica actually experienced it. Since this novel is being told from her first person perspective this early section (the part Shakespeare doesn’t tell us about) flows better because the author can make the choice to put her where ever she is needed. Whereas when we get to the Romeo period she does see things from the sidelines and we are only treated to little bits and pieces of the action. While it rounds out the story, it wasn’t as intriguing because of the more limited perspective. It speaks to the strength of the author that she can take the part of the novel I expected to be less interesting (the back story) and make it more fascinating than the well-known star-crossed lover’s story.

Leveen made the Italian world come to vivid life – sights, smells, and all! I couldn’t have asked for anything better in this department.



I thought that this was such a well done audio production. The narrator’s voice was perfect for what I envisioned Anjelica to sound like. She was light and bubbly when appropriate, but could reach the depth of sadness as well. Wonderful!

Author Lois Leveen also has written The Secrets of Mary Bowser. You can visit Leveen’s website or blog for additional information about the book. If you would like to preview the story before reading it, why not try out this excerpt of the book?

Reviews of this book by other bloggers:

Here are some choices for purchasing the book: Amazon, B&N, RJ Julia (my fav indie bookstore).



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