Friday, March 8, 2013

The Shoemakers Wife by Adriana TrigianiI

Like threads of delicate gold, the lives of two young Italian lovers, Enza Ravanelli, a practical girl born into poverty and Ciro Amadei, a dreamer raised in a convent orphanage, are woven together in this lush, epic novel set against the landscape of world events in the first half of the 20th century. — The Shoemaker's Wife spans two world wars, immigration, the birth of American manufacturing, the rigors of assimilation and the perils of the Great Depression. Like the times they were born into, Enza and Ciro's story is filled with surprising twists and turns. Together, they embrace the promise of a new and better life as they attempt to survive by the labour of their own hands. But when Ciro is diagnosed with a deadly cancer from the bombs he endured in World War I, he returns home alone to Italy to say goodbye, and solve a final mystery about his family.

Ciro dies, and when all seems lost, the new generation of the Amadei family rises, led by a feisty widow who loves her family and new country beyond all telling. A devoted and new patriot, Enza offers her only son to serve in World War II, and a surprising ending leads to a new era for the Amadei family.
So far this year, The Shoemakers Wife is my favorite read.  I love historical fiction so that automatically gave it an edge but Trigiani's writing is so powerful and captivating that she elevated this novel above most other historical fictions I have read. 
Trigiani is a very interesting individual with a rich background in Italian history and a wide range of books/jobs that gave/gives her incite into the human heart that I don't think all authors have.  And come on she knew Elizabeth Taylor!  You can read about her background on her website. She also has a wonderful section on her blog about "behind the book" where she tells her readers about how The Shoemakers Wife came to be. 
The novel starts in Italy, Vilminore di Scalve.  Trigiani mixes the descriptions beautifully with the characters.  Hardly 50 pages in one of the characters passes away.  I could tell from this short section what a great writer Trigian is.  I was so sad and at this point had no connection to the characters. 
Trigiani does include a lot of Latin and Italian in the writing.  I found myself skipping over many of this.  However it does keep the reader grounded in the location and religion but I just wanted to keep reading and not get bogged down with trying to figure out how to pronounce it. 
One of my favorite passages in the book is said by Ciro, the hero/love interest.  "...When you lose someone, they take a bigger place in your heart, not a smaller one.  Every day it grows, because you don't stop loving them.  You wish you could talk to them.  you need their advice.  But life doesn't always give us what we need, it is difficult..." So true.
The second section of the book takes place in New York/New Jersey.  Ciro and Enza have traveled to America for different reasons and have very different experiences.  It is wonderful to see the contrast and the history of how the sexual differences influenced how one made it in America. 
Enrico Caruso, a famous opera singer of the time, is a main character in this section.  It was very interesting to learn about him and to see how Trigiani mixed her fiction with fact. 
This is the original recording and if you go to You Tube, the uploader translated this song. 
Ciro and Enza finally come together in this section.  Ciro, earned his citizenship by going to war and Enza worked for Caruso designing his costumes.  Once they are married the book moves into the third and final section. 
They move to Chisholm Minnesota, Ciro and his friend Luigi want to open their own shoe shops and think it is a good place to do so. 
This section is a bit hard to read, Enza has trouble adjusting, she has always been portrayed as a very strong character but the reader can see that her love for Ciro has made her doubt things.
This is also the section where the reader finally understands the title of the book.  All this time Trigiani has been bouncing back and forth between Ciro and Enza.  But here the reader finally gets to only view things from Enza's point of view. 
I learned a lot from this book, double checking some of the historical aspects as I read.  And I enjoy doing that type of thing.  This book is not a love story, while there is a love story written into it, but a story about society at this time and how two people make it.  If you like historical fiction I highly suggest this as a must read. 
I could write on and on about this book but I don't want to give any spoilers away. 
I'm going to end with this clip from CBS featuring Adriana Trigiani talking about her books and her New York. 

I'm linking up to Literary Friday


Janet Ghio said...

Love your review and all the historical information.

Ricki Jill Treleaven said...

What a great review, Caroline. I love the video and trailer. Wouldn't you love to take one of those tours! I think we need to plan a trip!!! How much *fun*

Historical fiction is definitely my favorite genre. I've never read any of Trigiani's books, but I'm putting her on my wish list.

Thanks for linking-up!


Liz Hockamier said...

This was such a great review that I want to read this book! It looks like just my type of read. :)

Thank you for sharing.