Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Book Review: The Shoemaker's Wife

The Shoemaker's Wife
Published By: Harper
Publication Date: April 3, 2012
Page Count: 448
Source: ARC Kindly Provided Publisher for TLC Book Tours
Audience: Adult - Historical Fiction

Having never read Adriana Trigiani's work before I had no idea what to expect from this novel. I love well done historical fiction and the book had been blurbed by Kathryn Stockett so I decided to give this one a try. I never expected to fall in love so deeply. The Shoemaker's Wife is a masterpiece - a gorgeous work of art filled with love, loss, and family. This novel consumed every waking moment for me until I savored the last delicious sentence. Trigiani's prose is gorgeous and her descriptions are so vivid that the reader feels as if they are living alongside the characters. How could you not love a book that reads like this: "The quarter moon peeked through the alpine trees like a snip of pink ribbon in the purple night sky" (pg. 147). 


The Shoemaker's Wife is a sweeping love story that spans decades and continents. Ciro, is left with the nuns at a convent high in the Italian Alps, when his mother can no longer care for him and his older brother. Ciro longs for a family and spends his life trying to find his true love. In a town nearby, Enza is the oldest of a large Italian family. She watches as her parents struggle to make ends meet and to keep every mouth fed. Ciro and Enza end up meeting by chance when tragedy strikes; they have no idea how their lives will be entwined from that moment forward. Destiny often works in mysterious ways. Ciro reflects this thinking better than I could explain it: "Ciro had begun to notice the overlapping themes of his life. The seemingly disparate pieces of his experience weren't so separate after all. Happenstance and accidents didn't seem so random ... He figured that all the threads of his experience would eventually be sewn together, taking shape in harmony and form to create a glorious work of art. But who would sew those pieces together? Who would make him whole?" (pg. 127). 

I was reminded while reading this novel that human lives are connected in so many unexpected manners and that often love must wait until the time is right. My husband and I rotated around one another's lives and social circles for years before we finally met one another. Looking back on our story, I know that if we had met before we did things might not have worked out between us. I needed to grow and learn who I was before I could truly appreciate him. I have always been a firm believer in fate and I appreciate seeing my own thoughts reflected in fiction. 

One of my favorite things about this novel is the strong sense of place and culture. Trigiani does a beautiful job of transporting the reader to the Italian Alps in the early 1900's and the United States in the  WWI era. These are two elements that I do not know much about beyond the basics so I learned a lot. I appreciated getting to know more about what life was like for Italian immigrants during this time period. I found it interesting that there were numerous immigrants from Southern Italy, but few Northern Italians flocked to the American shores. I wonder what made this so. Furthermore, I enjoyed getting glimpses of the Ellis Island arrivals. I remember being interested in that element of history when I visited the location as a teenager. I couldn't begin to imagine the emotions people must have felt when they left the boat and stood on American soil for the first time. Class conflict and the quest to obtain the American Dream are dominant threads throughout this novel.

Another element I love about this novel is the characters. Ciro and Enza provide inspiration - life is not easy for them, but their perseverance is admirable. Their stories are compelling and I have to admit that I am saddened that I won't get to spend time with them anymore. This is a novel that I would reread just to linger with them for a bit longer. Both of these characters became real for me and provided many lessons. Ciro's constant motto - "Beware the things of this world that can mean everything or nothing" (pg. 114) will continue to repeat throughout my mind. The whole idea of it intrigues me. 

In addition, another element that makes this novel so compelling is the fact that the author used her family history as inspiration. I have always been interested in my own family histories so I found myself incredibly drawn to this book for that reason alone. Knowing that elements of the story were inspired by real people and their real experiences lends a bit of magic to an already solid story.

The Shoemaker's Wife reads like a quilt - it is a collection of stories tied together with the threads of love and family - each little detail is important to the larger piece. It is truly a thing of beauty.


One Last Gripe: I have no complaints except that this one made me cry in a few parts.

My Favorite Thing About This Book: The writing - I know I've said it before but it is beautiful - I am in awe of Adriana Trigiani's use of language

First Sentence: The scalloped hem of Caterina Lazzari's blue velvet coat grazed the fresh-fallen snow, leaving a pale pink path on the bricks as she walked across the empty piazza.

Favorite Character: Enza

Least Favorite Character: Felicita



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.




About the Author:


Adriana Trigiani is an award-winning playwright, television writer, and documentary filmmaker. The author of the Big Stone Gap series; Very Valentine; Lucia, Lucia, The Queen of the Big Time, and Rococo, she has also written the bestselling memoir Don’t Sing at the Table as well as the young adult novels Viola in Reel Life and Viola in the Spotlight. Her books have been published in thirty-six countries, and she has written and will direct the big-screen version of her first novel, Big Stone Gap. She lives in New York City with her husband and daughter.




Check out the other great blogs on this tour:

Tuesday, April 3rd: Book Journey
Wednesday, April 4th: Reading Lark
Thursday, April 5th: Life Is Short. Read Fast
Friday, April 6th: Amused By Books
Monday, April 9th: Literature and a Lens
Tuesday, April 10th: Book Dilettante
Wednesday, April 11th: Bibliosue
Thursday, April 12th: West Metro Mommy
Monday, April 16th: “That’s Swell!”
Tuesday, April 17th: Confessions of an Avid Reader
Wednesday, April 18th: Reviews by Lola
Monday, April 23rd: Peppermint PhD
Tuesday, April 24th: A Bookish Affair
Wednesday, April 25th: Knowing the Difference
Thursday, April 26th: Library of Clean Reads
Tuesday, May 1st: Walking With Nora
Wednesday, May 2nd: I’m Booking It



23 comments:

  1. Great review! I want to learn more about the WWI time period. It seems we have so many books about WWII. Thanks. It's on my list!

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    1. I agree, Annette. WWII has a ton of stuff. This doesn't focus heavily on the war - more the era - but its still a nice addition and I learned a lot. I also can't even begin to describe how gorgeous the writing was in this one. I'm so excited to see that you've added it to your TBR list. I'd love to hear your thoughts when you have time to read it.

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  2. I LOVE Adriana Trigiani's books, so when I began reading your review, I was nervous, that you might not enjoy her writing as much as I do, but I am happy to see you did!!!

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    1. I am new to Trigiani's work, but I have already added her other books to my TBR list. She's made me a fan with this novel.

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  3. I loved how you pointed out that fate was such an important theme in this book and the role it has played in your own love story. I could really get your love of this book from your review. I loved it too!

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    1. I'm glad to meet another fan, Amused. :)

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  4. I have to admit that I haven't read Trigiani before either, but I'm certain I'll love her books after reading this review!

    Thanks for being on the tour.

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    1. I highly recommend it, Heather! Thanks for having me on the tour. :)

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  5. This was my first Trigiani but I will be reading more! My least favorite character was Anna Buffa...even Felicita didn't bother me anywhere near as much as this evil woman :p

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    1. Ugh, I had forgotten about Anna Buffa. That woman - ugh. You're right she might be a tiny smidge worse than Felicita.

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  6. I never found it to move slowly or without depth. The story was moving and emotional and although the ending was a surprise, it was still a happy ending.

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    1. I agree. This one was one of most emotional books I read in 2012. I loved every minute of it.

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  7. I love that this romance wasn't set it one time period or place. It's interesting to see love grow in a "real" setting at times.

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    1. I enjoyed getting to see this romance span several decades. You really got to see the depth of it.

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  8. Sounds fantastic! After reading the review I want to read it this book even more. Thanks!

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    1. I hope that you'll give it a try. I'd love to hear your thoughts.

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  9. The book seems very interesting~~~ I really want to read it~~~

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  10. I'm a sucker for a good historical fiction, but I've been striking out a lot lately. This sounds like a good one, though, so I'll keep it in mind for next time I'm in the mood :)

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    1. There is a lot of tedious historical fiction out there, but this one is far from that. It's one of the most engaging and entertaining reads I have been fortunate enough to come across within this genre.

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  11. The scenery and the writing sound really beautiful and I am a sucker for orphaned heroes.

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  12. This sounds beautiful. Thank you for the review.

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    1. Thanks for checking out the review and taking the time to comment. :)

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