The International Bestseller
“Lois Leveen’s richly detailed, fascinating novel offers a wholly original and intriguing take on one of Shakespeare’s most beloved plays” (New York Times bestselling author Jennifer Chiaverini).
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.
In her second novel, Leveen (The Secrets of Mary Bowser) imagines the life of Angelica, the nurse in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. She brings mid-14th century, post-plague Verona to life with its poor, its royalty, and the battles between rival families here called "Cappalletti" and "Montecchi." Before Angelica can grieve the loss of her own (unexpected) baby in childbirth, her husband, Pietro, a beekeeper, arranges, with the politically savvy Friar Lorenzo, for her to be the wet-nurse for the newborn Cappalletti daughter, Juliet. As the inevitable bond between babe and wet-nurse grows, we are drawn into the protected world of the ultra wealthy, seen through the eyes of the hardworking, no-nonsense but good-humored nurse. Also remarkable is the strong relationship between the nurse and her steadfast husband (in marked contrast to the stiff Cappallettis), who uses his beekeeper trade to gain access to the Cappalletti gardens and his beloved wife. The characters from Shakespeare's work become present Lord and Lady Cappalletti, Tybalt and Mercutio, Rosaline, and the ill-fated Romeo and Leveen adds rich new layers to the story we know so well.