Like just about everyone else who experiences an American public high school education I remember reading Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet and really enjoying it even if I found the language rather difficult to get through. After almost 20 years my memory of the intricacies of plot and character development are somewhat blurry but the overall image I retain is of an all-consuming love between two young and naïve members of two feuding families against a backdrop of greed, power and jealousy. Beyond that things get hazy. With Juliet’s Nurse the reader is drawn back into this world of corruption and political rivalries and given the opportunity to view this much-read story from a new perspective, that of Juliet’s wet nurse and strongest advocate, with its world coming to life like never before in a way that is impossible to forget.
When Angelica loses her one day old daughter, a daughter she wasn’t even aware she was pregnant with, she is beyond bereft. Having already buried her sons, who died during the plague, she feels empty even with her caring and always attentive husband, Pietro, by her side. When she is whisked off on the same day she lost her daughter and employed as wet nurse to the newborn daughter of the rich and powerful Cappelletti family, her new charge becomes a balm for her battered heart and her new position as young Juliet’s everything gives her a new purpose in life. Her new life isn’t always safe and happy, however, and her unique position within the walls of the Cappelletti’s home allows her to see the vice and extravagance of a world she was not born into and one she doesn’t much want to be a part of. But her all-consuming love for Juliet keeps her there, ready to defend and do what is right for this daughter of her heart. And when it comes time for Juliet to marry and her young charge goes against the wishes of her father to be with the boy she loves, Angelica will try and do what she thinks is right for Juliet even as events unfold that she could never have anticipated.
I listened to Juliet’s Nurse as an audiobook and found it to be absolutely enthralling! The narrator did an excellent job of giving each character their own voice and perfectly captured the rollercoaster of emotions they all went through throughout the story. Her inflections and pacing was spot on and had me eager to get back in my car so I could get back to the story that had me completely captivated.
The author did a wonderful job as well, breathing new life into the complicated relationships and allegiances surrounding Romeo and Juliet. Having the focus be on Angelica is just brilliant with her unique and always present position not only within the opulent halls of the Cappelletti household but on the grimy and dangerous streets of Verona. I also loved that the author spent the majority of the story before the events of Romeo and Juliet even occur, giving the reader a better sense of what brought about the strong bond between Angelica and Juliet as well as a greater sense of the actions and jealousies that brought about those fateful days dealt with in Shakespeare’s classic story.
I cannot recommend Juliet’s Nurse enough for those looking for a new spin on a much told story. Historical fiction and classics lovers will just eat this one up and it would also be appealing to anyone looking for a novel with a spitfire of a main character or one that fully encompasses and expands on the world Shakespeare created centuries ago.
Colleen lives in Tampa, Florida with her husband, son, and their dogs Oliver and Cleopatra. When not working or taking care of her family she has her nose stuck in a book (and, let’s face it, often when she is working or taking care of her family as well). Nothing excites her more than discovering a new author to obsess over or a hidden jewel of a book to worship. You can find more of her reviews on her blog.
Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Audible.com. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.