It has been YEARS since I've finished a book in a weekend, but Juliet's Nurse just wouldn't be put down. Could it be the years of teaching Romeo and Juliet that caused me to pick the book in the first place? Of course it was! But Leveen's choice of main character--the wet nurse who is still with Juliet 13 years after her birth, and who has the most lines in the play after Romeo and Juliet--is fascinating, and the details gleaned from the original play are woven into the backstory of Angelica so masterfully that I couldn't stop reading. Here we find out why Angelica was free to become a wet nurse to the new Capulet (in this version Cappelletti) babe. We experience Angelica's relationship with her "merry man," her husband Pietro. We find out why the nurse sobs, "Tybalt, the best friend I ever had," upon learning of Tybalt's death at the hands of Romeo. Leveen's characterization also challenges some depictions of characters we've known for centuries--the "saintly" Friar Lawrence (who lost my respect the second he left Juliet in the tomb to save his own skin), the love-sick Romeo (a much more sinister character from Angelica's point of view). If you've loved Shakespeare's epic love story over the years, this is a must-read! PLUS--how appropriate that I finished it on Shakespeare's birthday!
Another series that I have neglected to review, but that I dearly love to listen to (and have I believe twice already). C.S. Harris (IRL Candice Proctor) set this series in Regency England (early 1800s) and follows the adventures of Sebastian St. Cyr, Viscount Devlin. In the first novel, What Angels Fear, Sebastian himself is accused of murder, forcing him to go on the run as he works to discover the real murderer. Subsequent novels introduce other interesting characters--most notably Cat Boleyn, the love of Sebastian's life; and Hero Jarvis, daughter of Sebastian's most despised nemesis. The Audible versions are ready by Davina Porter, one of my absolute favorite narrators. At times the series gets a bit formulaic (there are always three murders by the time Sebastian finally gets his act together and discovers whodunit), but the characterization and plot twists will have you coming back for more.
Margaret Atwood is coming to Green Bay for the Untitledtown Book and Author Festival (and I got tickets!), so I had to revisit The Handmaid's Tale. Frankly, I found it more chilling in our political climate today than when I first read it, and there was a LOT I didn't remember. In this dystopian (?) novel, the government has been overthrown, and a completely patriarchal ruling class has taken over the country, wresting all power from the women in the country and resigning them to the roles of either completely subservient wives, prostitutes, or handmaids, whose sole purpose is the procreation of the next generation. The idea for the handmaid (and all of the male-imposed rules that accompany the role) comes from Genesis, and the tale of Rachel and Leah, whose handmaids were impregnated by their husband Jacob when they were no longer able to bear children. The story takes the form of a journal written by Offred, a handmaid in the house of Fred. Offred frequently reminisces about her former life with her husband and daughter, even as she navigates her new life as a handmaid. Even in that completely structured social role, Offred finds that the rules can be bent or broken completely, if you're with the right person. Just when it seems like Offred has jeopardized her position and possibly her life, the book takes one last major turn, and ends with the reader asking for more. A story that once seemed impossible no longer feels so absurd.
OK, I HAVE been listening to books this year! I can't believe it's already April, so time to catch up! Latest listen--What She Knew. Fairly newly-divorced Rachel Jenner walks the dog with her son Ben on a regular basis. It's a routine day--until it isn't. When Ben asks to run ahead, Rachel says yes. And then Ben is gone, and things fall apart quickly. Is it her fault? The fault of her surgeon ex-husband (a patient with a grudge?) The case is tried in the media (no surprise), with society taking sides quickly. The police, in the character of Jim Clemo, work tirelessly to find Ben, but there are definite issues inside of the department which thwart his efforts. Macmillan does a great job pointing the blame at one suspect, then another, until one small slip tips Rachel off to the real kidnapper. Can she get there in time to save Ben, if he's still alive to save? Can she convince Clemo she's right? Great Audible narration by Penelope Rawlins and Dugald Bruce-Lockhart.