What if there was another perspective in the Romeo and Juliet story? Lois Leveen has reimagined the story, added some characters and background and presents it all in AudioBook. Please read on for my review of
A story told in two parts from the wet-nurse cum companion and dedicated servant to Juliet Cappelletti, Lois Leveen has taken a unique twist to present a viewpoint on Shakespeare’s classic Romeo and Juliet.
The predominant voice is that of Angelica, recently having lost her own daughter Susanna, she is put forward as a suitable wet-nurse for the newly born Juliet. Angelica is far more direct and un-stinting in her speech, her lack of euphemisms for bodily functions and refusal to be embarrassed about bodily functions, as well as her rather bawdy discussions of her interludes with her husband Pietro were wholly unexpected, and served to help enforce the separation of her detailing the story from the original. It also adds a small yet tangible layer of difficulty that does not allow the reader to fully ‘understand’ Angelica, even though we are hearing her side of the story. As a trusted member of the household, she is also familiar with the political and personal machinations within the Cappelletti household, and is surprisingly well-versed in the various feuds, power plays, prejudices and private moments that are concealed from those outside the family. There are introductions and views of younger versions of Tybalt and Juliet’s parents, as well as an interesting view on Father Lorenzo and the family. And with all of the information, surprisingly the connection between Julia and Angelica felt flat if not wholly non-existent: many moments are added that seem to have no direct bearing on what comes next.
Yet, the first half of the story was quick reading and quite beautiful: moments of base or bawdy description mixed neatly with very beautiful phrases that kept the ‘feel’ of Shakespeare present, if not quite predominant. Touches of a more philosophical nature did strengthen some moments even as the reliance on Angelica’s more intimate moments with Pietro seemed untethered to the story and did not find a comfortable purpose in the story. Personally this story could have ended here as an interesting prequel to Juliet’s life from infancy to the time of her famous play, with insets of life in Verona at the time.
But Leveen goes one step further to bring the second half of the title jumps forward to be more involved with the play, and the events surrounding it. Here the story becomes less consistent in presentation when compared to the first half, and while Leveen’s prose is often lyrical and beautiful, it doesn’t always feel as if this portion of the book ‘belongs’. Romeo plays a larger part in the story, the ‘huge twist’ is revealed and the sense that two different people or two different ideas were mashed together just gets stronger, as the story becomes more a retelling of the play and Angelica’s voice seems to be more one of outsider than privileged insider sharing secrets.
Narration for this story is provided by Nicola Barber, who presents Angelica with the appropriate mixture of sorrow and joy, never over-reaching for either emotion. Secondary and other characters are well presented with changes in tone and pacing delivery that delineate them as unique, without overacting or overreaching that becomes distracting.
On the whole, the first half or so of the book was intriguing and interesting: presenting new ideas and views into the Cappalletti household, and presenting a competent view of life as both a member of privilege and a servant of the time. While the second half is more tangibly tied to the play, there is a touch of disconnect with the increased focus on drama and decreasing sense of connection with the characters. While an enjoyable read or listen, this didn’t hit the mark of ‘must have’ for me.
Stars: Overall 3 Narration 4 Story 3
Title: Juliet's Nurse
Author: Lois Leveen
Narrator: Nicola Barber
Published on: 23 September, 2014
Source: Simon and Schuster Audio
Audio Length: 10 Hours: 44 minutes
Heat: Get Your Copy: Amazon ♦ AllRomance ♦ iTunes ♦ Kobo ♦ Downpour ♦ IndieBound ♦ Book Depository ♦ Google
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.
A copy of this title was provided via Simon and Schuster Audio for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges: