Juliet’s Nurse Book Review

In it’s approximate 500 year history, Romeo and Juliet has been seen and read the world over countless number of times.  From Hollywood to live theater to English classrooms, most of us know something of the play.

One of the more prominent characters is Juliet’s nurse. Middle aged and Rubin-esque, she is both comic relief and mother figure to the play’s leading lady. We know nothing of her background, of her family, what her life was like before she took on the task of nursing Juliet or what her life was like after the death of her charge.

Lois Leveen’s new novel, Juliet’s Nurse,  answers these questions in a way that is compelling, dramatic and hooks the reader from the beginning.

The nurse’s name, the reader will learn early on is Angelica. Angelica and her husband, Pietro had several children before they were lost to the plague. Their sorrow first turns to joy and then back to sorrow as their newborn daughter dies within a day of coming into the world. In another part of Verona on the same day, Lady Cappelletto has given birth to a baby girl, Juliet. Angelica is commissioned to be the child’s wet nurse.

 Lady Cappelletto is an emotionally distant teenage mother forced into a loveless marriage to her much older husband. While Lord Cappelletto adores his daughter, he is also a man of his station who still wishes for a son to one day inherit. It is up to Angelica to provide the emotional and physical nourishment to Juliet and Tybalt, her employer’s rowdy nephew. While taking care of the children, Angelica must also get around the rules that state that she must have limited contact with her husband.

What I enjoyed about this novel was that Ms. Leveen fleshed out the lives and stories of the characters that are normally bound to the context of the play. I appreciated the fact that Angelica comes from a working class background. The voices of those who resided in the lower levels of society within this period are normally not heard.

I recommend this book.




Juliet, A Rose Who Still Smells Just As Sweet

Romeo and Juliet is familiar tale. Anyone who has sat through High School English has read it at least once. Ask anyone off the street to quote a line from a Shakespeare play, a line from Romeo and Juliet will probably be the first line they quote.

One of my previous posts was a review of Anne Fortier’s new novel, The Lost Sisterhood. Out of curiosity, I decided to read her previous novel, Juliet.

Julie Jacobs lost both of her parents when she was a young girl. She and her sister, Janice were raised by their Aunt Rose.  At the beginning of the novel, her aunt has died. Julie’s inheritance is a key to a safe deposit box in Siena, Italy. She is told that the contents of the safe deposit box will guide her to a centuries old family treasure. Arriving in Siena, Julie discovers that not only is her birth name Guilietta Tolomei, but she is descended from a woman who was the real life inspiration to the title female character in Romeo and Juliet.

I liked this book more than I did the Lost Sisterhood.  It contains the same elements, an ancient mystery and lives centuries apart that are somehow intertwined.  Ms. Fortier repeats the use of flashback and flash forwards to tell the story of medieval and modern Guilietta. I have never been to Siena, but I felt like I was there with the characters.  It’s a bit shorter than her newest novel, which for me made a big difference. I recommend it.

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