Book Review: The Shoemaker’s Wife by Adriana Trigiani

The Shoemaker's Wife by Adriana TrigianiRating: 4/5
I read this in: English, the original language
Number of pages: 496
First published: 2012 (April 3rd)
Genre: historical fiction
I got this: for review from Harper as an e-galley

I haven’t read all of Trigiani’s books, but I’ve read quite a few. I looked at Adriana Trigiani’s website and of the 14 books shown there, I’ve read 8. Make that 9, if we include The Shoemaker’s Wife.

This new book, The Shoemaker’s Wife, is reminiscent of the Big Stone Gap series, in that it’s a story that spans almost a whole life time. Only this time, the whole story is in one book, rather than three. As the book is the story of the lives of Ciro and Enza, with its ups and downs, and its quiet moments, the tension in the story fell away several times and this book could easily have been three separate stories. I think I would have liked that better.

Saying that, I very much enjoyed reading the book!

The Shoemaker’s Wife: What it is about

Harper, the publishers, say this: “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. 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.”

The Shoemaker’s Wife: What I thought

I had a good time with this book. I enjoyed especially the beginning, when both Ciro and Enza are living a life in poverty in neighboring villages in Italy around the year 1900. They haven’t got an easy time, but they have their family and life is as good as it can be. At first, their lives in America are hard and difficult but soon they start to make a good living, because of their skill and hard work. They spend a long time separate from each other in the book, and only meet up a few times. Later, their fates come together.

There is a strong focus in the book on family, and, for lack of a family as immigrants, on close friendships. Both Ciro and Enza survive their initial time in America through good friendships, which they keep for life, even when settled with their own family. But even so, their family back in Italy remains important to them, too.

The book spans a period from around 1900 to 1945 and it is very good at setting out a kind of American dream, where immigrants without any money make a good life for themselves through hard work and fair play. Life isn’t always kind but sometimes does throw unexpected pleasures and treasures at our protagonists.

This is historical fiction for Big Stone Gap fans. And if you don’t know that series, why not read it after you’ve enjoyed The Shoemaker’s Wife?

As this story is loosely based on Trigiani’s grandparents’ stories, I’m now curious to check my copy of Don’t Sing at the Table, which is a memoir in which Trigiani describes the (real) lives of her two grandmothers in some detail. Now my only regret is that I don’t have a paper copy of The Shoemaker’s Wife (I got an e-galley), to go with the other seven books I own by Adriana Trigiani.

Extra: Check out this tv interview with Adriana Trigiani. It’s funny and, in my European eyes, really over the top. But hey, it’s only a few minutes! So have a look at Trigiani in real life.

About Leeswammes
I'm owner and editor at In my free time, I read and review books on my two blogs, Leeswammes' Blog and De Boekblogger.

25 Responses to Book Review: The Shoemaker’s Wife by Adriana Trigiani

  1. Suzanne says:

    I went to an event with Adriana Trigiani several years ago and loved her personality; she is “over the top” as you say, but in a good way. I am glad you enjoyed this, I am about 2/3 done and I am loving it.

  2. Sounds good, Judith. I’ve read quite a few books by Trigiani myself and really enjoyed all of them. I will have to keep my eye out for this book, although I think it’s a little bit longer before it hits the shelves on this side of the Atlantic.

    • Leeswammes says:

      Marleen, if you enjoyed her other books, this is one for you. I have no idea how fast it will get to you, I know that some books are even translated into Dutch before they’re in the shops in English here. It’s all random – for me, at least.

      • Most of the time it’s very frustrating to see a book reviewed only to find out it’s not yet available on this side of the Atlantic. Sometimes it works the other way around though. I’ve just started reading Torn by Casey Hill (the sequel to Taboo) and it’s out here in Ireland before it’s available in the UK even. I do like reading books early, so it’s nice when that’s occassionally possible.

  3. Mystica says:

    I like immigrant stories as they are so interesting. They bring so much variety apart from a totally different way of life to the staid! the interview was so so but if the author was able to bring in the artists of her grandparents day into the opera by way of seamstresses, tailors and shoe makers it has to be an intriguing story.

    • Leeswammes says:

      Yes, it’s an intriguing story, Mystica. These people were quite culture shocked at first and it is nice to see how they adapt to the new situation.

  4. Mari Partyka says:

    Confession: I haven’t read anything by this author. Do you have a recommendation?

    Sounds like you didn’t love this one…

    • Leeswammes says:

      Mari, I didn’t like this book as much as the Big Stone Gap series. Although when it started off, I thought it might be just as good, but in the end, I found it slightly less powerful.

      I would suggest the Big Stone Gap series, I still think that is her best, and I do think you’d like it, too!

  5. Based on the cover of the book I wouldn’t have guessed you would read it or like it, Judith… It looks a bit too romantic, for my taste. But, obviously I am wrong.
    BTW, I love the look of your blog.

  6. I am new to Trigiani and really enjoying this one so far. I haven’t decided if I want to read her other books yet.

    • Leeswammes says:

      Glad you’re enjoying this, Lola. It seems lots of people are reading it at the moment. If you have an interest in Italy or US people of Italian descent, then her books are very interesting. But also if you don’t (like me).

  7. Leslie says:

    I haven’t read anything by this author yet but from all the nice reviews of her books, maybe I should pick up one up. I do enjoy stories set in Italy and I’m not sure how I missed these.

  8. Marie says:

    Great review! The book sounds wonderful. I think I’d enjoy it, so I’m adding it to my wishlist. Thanks for the recommendation.

  9. Pingback: TLC Book Tour — The Shoemaker’s Wife | bibliosue

  10. epkwrsmith says:

    I agree that this story might have been better in a series or trilogy…even though I really liked it, I felt the last 100 pages were rushed…there’s an entirely different story to tell while Ciro and Enza are creating their lives in Minnesota and then another another story to tell with the beginnings of the next generation. I will read more of Trigiani’s work 🙂

    • Leeswammes says:

      Indeed, epkrsmth, the last part of the book was definitely rushed. You may like the Big Stone Gap series, I think that is just as well written but the story is more balanced.

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  13. i have one Trigiani’s book , i don’t want to read it … but when i bought one of her books again i start reading the new one then the next one in just a short period of time, i don’t expect to finished it because i am not a book worm type … its an achievement for me ! thanks to Trigiani’s very exquisite stories ! i am starting to love Italy !

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