Book Review: The Shoemaker’s Wife by Adriana Trigiani
April 5, 2012 25 Comments
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.