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Behind the Story of Juliet’s Nurse from Lois Leveen

During the long period of writing a novel, you don’t know what compliments—or criticism—you’ll get once it’s done. And you definitely don’t know which will mean the most to you.

Now that Juliet’s Nurse is finally being read and reviewed, I’m especially struck by people who say they wish the book existed when they were in high school, struggling to slog through Romeo and Juliet.

Should I, a former university faculty member who spent over a decade earning degrees in history and literature, be offended when readers say Shakespeare just seemed too hard? Not at all!

Anyone who’s ever tried to teach Shakespeare to adolescents, as I have, knows how daunting the language and style can be for teens and twenty-somethings (and, um, maybe for their parents, too). But grappling with unfamiliar language and difficult concepts is an important part of learning. As an educator, I’m happy to have any book or tool or lesson plan I can use to make that difficult part easier. So it’s no surprise that teachers and school librarians are already ordering it, even though Juliet’s Nurse isn’t a YA novel; it’s written for adult readers.

Yes, I wrote Juliet’s Nurse for readers who, whether they loved studying Romeo and Juliet or hated it, haven’t read Shakespeare’s most famous play in years. Because it’s written from a twenty-first century sensibility, it helps readers make sense of what was happening in Romeo and Juliet, and particularly how it affects the nurse, who as a mother-figure to Juliet is hardly a minor character. The nurse has the largest number of lines after the title characters, and Juliet actually speaks more of her lines to the nurse than she does to Romeo. 

About the Author

Award-winning author Lois Leveen dwells in the spaces where literature and history meet.  Her work has appeared in numerous literary and scholarly journals, as well as The New York Times, the Los Angeles Review of Books, Chicago Tribune, Huffington Post, Bitch magazine, The Wall Street Journal, the Atlantic, and on NPR.  Lois gives talks about writing and history at universities, museums, and libraries around the country.  She lives in Portland, Oregon, with two cats, one Canadian, and 60,000 honeybees.  Visit her online at LoisLeveen.com and Facebook.com/LoisLeveen.

About the Book

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.

Hardcover: 384 pages
Publisher: Atria/Emily Bestler Books (September 23, 2014)

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