Spicier and more engaging retelling of one of the greatest love stories
Synopsis of 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.
My two centsWhen I had to read Romeo and Juliet in school, I didn't exactly enjoy it. I found it difficult to read (and frankly, thought Romeo and Juliet were a bit stupid). But such is the story of Shakespeare's lovelorn youths.
This book turns everything upside down in so many ways and I absolutely loved it!
Gone is the stuffiness and over-romanticized version by Shakespeare. This is told from a very unlikely source, Juliet's nurse, Angelica. This retelling is coloured by her class perspective, her loving personality, and her own rather tragic life story.
The love story between Romeo and Juliet seems to be an afterthought. Rather this is a poignant relationship between a loving woman and her ward, with an intriguing twist in this all. The story kept me on tenterhooks as to whether the "secret" would actually come to light. (It's a secret, so I can't spoil this whole book for you!)
This main arc alone would've kept me turning the pages at a fast clip. But there was so much more to enjoy: Juliet and Tybalt's tender childhood friendship, Angelica's own love story (and love making!) as well as rather tragic desire for motherhood, the complicated dynamic between classes, and the machinations of the church in Verona, Italy's everyday life during the Renaissance.
This reminded me so much of my first time reading Philippa Gregory's work where she brings dreary history out of the dregs with the sexual escapades, the intrigue and the conspiracies of the noblemen. It's probably not Shakespeare's intent (especially downplaying Romeo who is quite annoying here) but the story retold from the nurse made this so much more interesting for me!
Verdict: Alternately funny, heartbreaking, and tender, richly layered and wonderfully researched, it puts one of the most beloved love stories in a totally new light. I loved everything about this classical retelling.
If you like Philippa Gregory or are just curious about how Romeo and Juliet can become spicier and even better reading, get a copy.
I received an advanced reader copy from Goodreads First Reads.