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4.1 out of 5 stars
The Shoemaker's Wife: A Novel
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
To say that I loved reading this book is an understatement. It's a story that touched me deeply because it explores themes I am familiar with: the immigrant experience, the Italian setting, and characters that remind me of my own relatives. I savoured every page! I have read only one other book from Trigiani, which was Very Valentine, and although I enjoyed it, I found the storytelling and writing in The Shoemaker's Wife far superior.

This epic story begins in the early 1900s in the Italian Alps, where we first meet Enza and Ciro who are children. Enza is raised in a loving family while Ciro is left with his brother at a convent to be raised by nuns. Ciro and Enza meet as teenagers and form a bond when they share a deeply moving experience, but shortly after Ciro must leave the mountain against his will to set sail for America where he learns the trade of a shoemaker. Enza also travels to America and works hard to send money home to her family, eventually making a career as a seamstress. She and Ciro briefly meet again in America, but only come together years later after World War I.

Trigiani's skill as a writer is clearly shown as she deftly takes us from the fresh Italian Alps to bustling Little Italy in New York City at the turn of the century, to the glamorous Metropolitan Opera House and later to Minnesota. I enjoyed every setting and found the events flowed smoothly in this novel. Rich with details and believable characters, I was transported to a different era, to a time when my own great-grandfather sailed a ship that took him from Italy to Boston.

I smiled and I cried (no, I bawled toward the end of the story) as I was so invested in the lives of all the characters, from the loving nuns in the village of Schilpario, Italy to Caruso at the Opera House. I loved both Enza and Ciro's story. They were so well-developed and real to me. Ciro was wonderfully flawed, but Enza seemed so perfect. She could do anything it seemed, but I loved her anyway because she had strength of character and was loyal. Ciro had a great sense of humour and Trigiani beautifully transforms him from an innocent teen to a man who knew exactly what he wanted in life and went after it. Oh, and shall I mention all the food descriptions of homemade gnocchi, freshly-churned butter and cream, and chestnuts that made my mouth water?

For me this book brought back memories of chatting late into the night with my Nonna in Rome when I was a teenager myself. She would tell me about her childhood growing up in a noble family in Naples and how she left home as a young woman because she could not get along with her stepmother. The story of Enza and Ciro made me appreciate what my grandparents and parents went through to forge a life for us here in North America. Truly, any Italian descendant living in North America could relate to the story of The Shoemaker's Wife, based on the love story of Trigiani's own grandparents.

I consider this to be one of the best books I've read in 2012 and highly recommend it for all who love a good old-fashioned and moving saga.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Firstly and as always I would be remiss if I didn't note that I received this book free as a Goodreads giveaway. I entered the Giveaway, as I always do, knowing absolutely nothing of the book in question and intentionally avoiding any background. The fact that the book was free (as anyone who looks at my other reviews of free books will note) will have no impact on my review of it.

Unlike many of the free books I've reviewed this one wasn't free because it was new and just coming out and needed reviewing. It was free because the book was already well established and coming out in paperback after being on the NYT best sellers list. Typically I give very little credence to the popularity of a book in assessing the quality but after having tramped my way through the nearly 500 pages of this one I can assert that its popularity is well deserved.

There have been so many reviewers before me that there's little I can say that hasn't already been covered. Trigiani's book is at its heart a romance but only so in the way that all stories drawn from life are at their hearts romances. She encapsulates with incredible skill an entire lifetime and draws us a portrait that makes its way into your soul and is sure to be remembered long after the last page turns.

The author's attention to detail is meticulous without becoming dull or redundant and reminds me strongly of the Dickensian tendency to stop and patiently draw out all the intimate nuances of a scene. I would leave potential readers with two recommendations. Firstly, take the time to read this one but do so with an open mind and let it wash over you. Immerse yourself in it and have patience. Secondly, the book is not to be taken lightly. You cannot go after it in fits and starts. If you cannot read 100 pages at a sitting then read something else until you can. It is a vastly rewarding novel but one that requires utmost and concentrated attention.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on December 19, 2012
It may be extremely difficult to take a real-life family story and make it compelling while trying to remain true to the people you love. I felt like there was much too much description of places, food and people's thoughts, and not nearly enough action and tension. I loved that she brought in historical figures and places. I just wanted to see the characters dealing with conflict, not talking about it afterwards.
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on June 7, 2014
This book is a frustrating read. Frustrating because it has potential. It's most basic problem is that it's too long - the story could have been much more effectively told in half the time. It was interesting enough to keep me reading, but by the end of the book, I was skimming pages just to be done with it. Adriana needed to find and then trust a decent editor. This story is near and dear to her, being inspired by her grandparents own love story. Perhaps this is why she was unable to let go of parts of it.

The story also suffered from being exaggerated and overly dramatic with little substance. Often, there were rises in conflict that led to very little effect. The book may best be described as an epic journey to nowhere interesting. I say the book had potential because there were nuggets of loveliness within it that should have been featured. The rest should have been cut.

There is some good writing here, though it is inconsistent. A good editor could have resolved the issues and helped Ariana to turn a mediocre and much too lengthy book into an absolute gem of a story. Shame.
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on November 18, 2012
I got this book as a birthday gift from my son who likes to read. At first, I fall in love with its cover: the velvety touch of the paper, the scarlet red gown of the elegant lady, the pearly white of the back cover, all of these small details conveyed me to start my journey into the many worlds of Enza’s story. The story of each and every individual that leave his home town in search of a better place that provide him with more opportunities and more money.

Enza proved that success and happiness is relative to the person itself, her way of dealing with the issues that she encounters and the attitude she has towards others. Like many successful immigrants, Enza had the character of a fighter who never gives up. She is a courageous girl that had a difficult life in Italy, she endured poverty, injustice and death, back home, she was the backbone of the family and used to help and to sympathize with people suffering.

The life in America was a challenge for the young girl that came from the Italian Alps. Working in the factory, as a housekeeper and as a seamstress were all demanding jobs that needed a great deal of courage and determination that Enza had for sure.

This novel is worth to be read over and over to discover the many side of the story: the beauty of the Italian country side, the splendor of the Amercian dream, the determination of the immigrants, the love story of a dedicated couple, and most of all to enjoy the finest style of writing nowadays, embodied by Adriana Trigiani’s pen.
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This was such a wonderful historical romance novel between two teenagers that spans several years, two countries that are oceans apart, and a war.
This isn't your typical fluffy romance novel, this is a story full of hardships and how life was for an immigrant in that era.
I think this is the kind of novel that you either love or hate due to the amount of detail Trigiani uses to describe the Alps and life for the two main characters, but for me I found the excessive description to be critical to the novel. The reader needed to be drawn into the atmosphere of the book in order to get the true feeling of the story.
If you are looking for a beautifully done novel from Italy I would recommend giving this one a shot.
I look forward to checking out some of Adriana's other works like the Big Stone Gap series.

http://melissasbooksaroundtheworld.blogspot.ca/2015/03/the-shoemakers-wife-italy.html
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on April 20, 2013
The author seems not to have consulted an atlas. The hero takes a boat from Venice to Le Havre and arrives a day later. Impossible!
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
I wanted so much to love this book not only because the author wrote that it was based on her family history, but because the premise for the story held such rich possibilities. Unfortunately all the possibilities were lost in a mountain of words. I wanted to love it so much I forced myself to finish it, but I was only able to do so by skipping paragraphs & pages. By page 16 I was already yawning & skipping.

I have yet to `feel' the story. Not a drop of emotion emerged through the pages of what could & should have been a deeply moving love story. Coincidences abound. Dialogue feels superficial & decidedly not of the time period. Christianity is overpowering. Little slips in editing were annoying & should not have been allowed to pass in a book of this caliber. Quite unacceptable.

The over-long descriptive passages about things & places having nothing whatsoever to do with the plot did nothing to add to the story or the emotion of the already stilted, under-developed characters.

Having read 600+ page books that kept me riveted on every word to the very end, this 470 page over-written tome was a disappointment. Leaving out all the overblown descriptive passages maybe a beautiful love story could have been crafted into a 250 page book with some feeling.

The most wonderful thing about this book is the beautiful cover, which by the way, does not depict anything in the story, most definitely not Enza, The Shoemaker's Wife.
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on June 30, 2013
I really enjoyed this book as I could not put it down. I liked the time period and the development of the characters from their young life to when they are mature in their years.
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on September 9, 2014
I enjoyed reading this novel. My interest was peeked through the book. A sign of a good book for me is becoming attached to the characters - and this book did that. I enjoyed the story line.
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