Juliet’s Nurse by Lois Leveen – what a beautiful book. The story is brilliantly researched and told. I found it to be both easy to read and historically accurate. The tale revolves around Juliet (yes, Shakespeare’s Juliet) as told by her Nurse (that beloved character from Romeo and Juliet). I love that the story is the Nurses’ story and not only about Juliet. It added so much more to the story, and I thought that it was much more interesting being told this way.
The book starts with the birth and death of an infant, when Angelica is hired to be the wealthy Juliet Cappellettis’ wet-nurse. As the relationship between the heartbroken Angelica and baby Juliet deepens, Angelica is kept on as Nurse to Juliet and indeed she is the girl’s closest companion and intimate. How cloistered wealthy girls were at the time and how little was thought of them besides how much money and social standing could they bring into the family by marrying well.
The historical time in which this book takes place is full of misogyny, extreme poverty, extreme wealth and danger from both rampant murder and disease. Loss is a recurring theme since by the end of the book Angelica has lost everyone she has ever loved due to murder, disease and the fight for power by the wealthy.
One of the things that stands out is that over the course of a few days, Juliet meets and weds Romeo. In Shakespeare we’re given beautiful soliloquies to help this improbable tale along, but in Juliet’s Nurse, we are not. In fact, I was left wondering at the harm done to Juliet by her uncaring Mother and grasping Father that led her to make such a choice. A choice, that as everyone knows, she dies for.
Angelica of course, goes on. She has become the indomitable Everywoman. She picks herself up, dusts herself off and creates a new life for herself. A hero indeed. This is a book that I enjoyed and recommend to you. Very good!