Friday, August 1, 2014

Romeo and Juliet from the Nurse's Viewpoint

Angelica, the stout woman who became Juliet's nurse, doesn't realize she's pregnant until her water breaks, and she goes into labor. After a daunting ordeal, the baby is born. Pietro, Angelica's husband, rushes off with the tiny girl to have her baptized, the traditional step for babies that at not expected to live. Angelica is distraught, but Pietro finds her a situation with the Cappelletti as a wet-nurse, and thus she becomes Juliet's nurse lavishing all the love for her lost daughter on the tiny infant.

The first part of the book is Angelica's story. She nurses Juliet, gets to know the nine-year-old Tybalt, and enjoys bawdy romps with Pietro. The second part of the book is the story of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet told from the standpoint of the nurse. Tybalt and Juliet are now grown, and she has become interested in the opposite sex.

The book is an engaging take on the nurse, one of Shakespeare's most famous minor characters. I enjoyed the first part of the novel, although I thought the author missed opportunities to tie the first half more closely to the tragedy of the second half. The feud between the Cappelletti and the Montecchi isn't mentioned. It would have been interesting to see the tragedy foreshadowed in the early gossip about the feud.

Some of the characters, Pietro, Tybalt and Mercutio, are fascinating and for me one of the highlights of the book. If you enjoyed Shakespeare's Play, you may enjoy this take on the background. If you've never seen or read the play, this is still a good period novel.

I reviewed this book for Net Galley.