Monday, October 6, 2014

The Shoemaker's Wife - Adriana Trigiani

Summary:  The majestic and haunting beauty of the Italian Alps is the setting of the first meeting of Enza, a practical beauty, and Ciro, a strapping mountain boy, who meet as teenagers, despite growing up in villages just a few miles apart. At the turn of the last century, when Ciro catches the local priest in a scandal, he is banished from his village and sent to hide in America as an apprentice to a shoemaker in Little Italy. Without explanation, he leaves a bereft Enza behind. Soon, Enza's family faces disaster and she, too, is forced to go to America with her father to secure their future.

Unbeknownst to one another, they both build fledgling lives in America, Ciro masters shoemaking and Enza takes a factory job in Hoboken until fate intervenes and reunites them. But it is too late: Ciro has volunteered to serve in World War I and Enza, determined to forge a life without him, begins her impressive career as a seamstress at the Metropolitan Opera House that will sweep her into the glamorous salons of Manhattan and into the life of the international singing sensation, Enrico Caruso. 

From the stately mansions of Carnegie Hill, to the cobblestone streets of Little Italy, over the perilous cliffs of northern Italy, to the white-capped lakes of northern Minnesota, these star-crossed lovers meet and separate, until, finally, the power of their love changes both of their lives forever. 

Lush and evocative, told in tantalizing detail and enriched with lovable, unforgettable characters, The Shoemaker's Wife is a portrait of the times, the places and the people who defined the immigrant experience, claiming their portion of the American dream with ambition and resolve, cutting it to fit their needs like the finest Italian silk.

This riveting historical epic of love and family, war and loss, risk and destiny is the novel Adriana Trigiani was born to write, one inspired by her own family history and the love of tradition that has propelled her body of bestselling novels to international acclaim. Like Lucia, Lucia, The Shoemaker's Wife defines an era with clarity and splendor, with operatic scope and a vivid cast of characters who will live on in the imaginations of readers for years to come.  (Summary and image from

My Review:  I'm not a huge fan of Adriana Trigiani's Big Stone Gap series.  I liked them, don't get me wrong, but they just weren't my cup of tea.  This is nothing at all like her previous books.  At all.

Trigiani has penned a novel that easily could be coined an epic.  Spanning two continents, two lifetimes, and giving insight into a time of history we tend to overlook (pre-WWI into the Great Depression), she has crafted a story that stuck with me more than I realized during my reading.  She has held nothing back, meticulously crafting her descriptions of the food, the scenery, smells, clothing, motions, and other characters.  While some readers may get bogged down, I thought it did nothing but enhance the story - breathing a deeper, fuller life into the characters than otherwise could have been achieved.  I loved how the mountain itself became a character.  I loved the span.  I loved the lifelong development of the characters - to me, it was such an organic development I found myself with wet cheeks as one character dies.  Frankly, I can't remember the last book that has made me cry hard enough to actually have tears leave my eyes.

I was a little daunted when I first picked up this book on recommendation from my neighbor.  It's long. (It's been a crazy busy time of year, but there's a lot of description to fit in.) However, I was completely surprised at how quickly it read.  Frankly, it may have been a little too quickly - I enjoyed it so much!

The only qualm I have about giving this five stars is the unrealistic depiction of the Depression era.  The characters seemed to be utterly untouched, like the Great Depression just didn't exist in the Midwest, and that just didn't ring quite true.  (I'm a little bit of a history geek and stickler, though.)

My Rating:  Four stars

For the Sensitive Reader:  There are a few scenes where sexual relations are mentioned, but they are not explicit.  It's more of the "this happened, so here we are" kind of a deal.  

1 comment:

Bookshelf Butterfly said...

This book sounds gorgeous! I love historical fiction, and even better when a story is heavily descriptive in the settings etc as you have said. I've not read this author before so may have to try :)


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