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The Shoemaker's Wife: A Novel Hardcover – April 3, 2012
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Kathryn Stockett was born and raised in Jackson, Mississippi. After graduating from the University of Alabama with a degree in English and Creative Writing, she moved to New York City, where she worked in magazine publishing and marketing for nine years. The Help is her first novel.
Kathryn Stockett: This is by far your most epic novel to date. How long did it take you to write The Shoemaker’s Wife?
Adriana Trigiani: I worked on this story for over 20 years as I wrote scripts and novels and had my own family. There are scraps of paper, dinner napkins, and bills with timelines and notes scrawled across them. There are old notebooks filled with my grandmother’s musings from 1985. I collected train tickets, copies of ships’ manifests, and a silk tag with my grandmother’s name from garments she had created. I traveled as far as the Italian Alps and as close as the few blocks it takes me to walk to Little Italy in New York City to capture the historical aspects of the story. All of this went into the novel. It was a delicious gestation period.
Stockett: This is a novel, but it is inspired by a true story—a family story, right?
Trigiani: Yes—my grandparents, Lucia and Carlo. Their love was a dance with fate. It is riddled with near misses against a landscape of such massive world events that it’s a wonder they got together at all. My challenge was to present their world to the reader so it might feel it was happening in the moment. I wanted the reader to have the experience I had when stories were told to me by the woman who lived them.
Stockett: The novel takes place during the first half of the twentieth century--what is so compelling about this period of time to you?
Trigiani: The cusp of the twentieth century was a time everything was new—cars, phones, planes, electricity, even sportswear, and in each innovation was a kind of explosive potential. No one could predict where all the inventions would lead, people only knew that change was unavoidable.
My grandparents were delighted every time America presented them with something they had never seen before. And my grandparents’ sense of wonder never left them, so I tried not to let it leave the page, be it a cross-country train ride or the first snap of the bobbin on an electric Singer sewing machine.
Stockett: Through the remarkable story of Enza and Ciro, your novel tells the larger story of the immigrant experience in America.
Trigiani: What a gift immigrants were and are to this country! They bring their talents and loyalty and make our country even greater. My grandparents were proud to be new Americans. Assimilation was not about copying an American ideal, but aspiring to their own version of it. The highest compliment you could pay a fellow immigrant was: he (or she) was a hard worker. I hear the phrase work like an immigrant said, but really, it’s bigger than that—we must also dream like immigrants.
Stockett: The Shoemaker’s Wife seamlessly brings together fictional characters and historical figures—how did the wonderful Caruso enter the novel?
Trigiani: It started with a three-foot stack of vinyl records—my grandmother Lucia’s collection of Caruso. Her absolute devotion to The Great Voice lasted her whole life long. I knew, in order to write this novel, I had to fall in love with Caruso too, because he sang the score of my grandparents’ love affair.
When Lucia passed, I went to my first opera, seeking understanding and comfort. As the music washed over me, I began to understand why my grandmother was such a fan. The words were Italian, and the emotions were big; nothing was left unexpressed in the music. If only life were that way.
“I’ve always loved reading Trigiani, but [this] is something totally new and completely wonderful: a rich, sweeping epic which tells the story of the women and men who built America dream by dream. If you’re meeting her work for the first time, get ready for a lifelong love affair. Splendid.” (Kathryn Stockett, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Help)
“The breathtaking… historical novel sparkles in exquisite details and vivid descriptions.” (Huffington Post)
“[A] great read….Bella.” (People)
“Pure pleasure . . . full-bodied and elegantly written.” (Washington Post Book World)
“You’ll have trouble putting this novel down.” (Richmond Times-Dispatch)
“The novel is a sweeping epic, but at its heart, it’s a love story. It speaks to an era of possibilities.” (Providence Journal)
“Trigiani’s page-turning newest… is a sweeping saga… More than an epic romance, Trigiani’s work pays homage to the tribulations of the immigrant experience, and the love that makes the journey and hardships worthwhile.” (Publishers Weekly)
“This expansive epic, which seems tailor-made for a miniseries, manages to feel both old-fashioned and thoroughly contemporary…[an] irresistible love story.” (Booklist)
“Trigiani’s gift for using vivid details to create a strong sense of place and her warm affection for her characters will make this a satisfying read for her many fans.” (Library Journal)
…an old-fashioned, romantic tale of two star-tangled lovers...but also a paean to artisanal work, food, friendship and family…Trigiani is a master of palpable and visual detail. (Washington Post)
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Top Customer Reviews
There is, of course, a love story, but before this relationship blossoms, the author has her sentiments regarding the Catholic Church. Although this novel takes place at the turn of the century, the strength of the village and the Church seem timeless. Eduardo is a scholarly older brother, dedicated to protecting his outgoing, opinionated younger sibling, Ciro. Ciro is a big strong kid whom the nuns adore with his sense of humor and his commitment to earn his keep at the Convent. He goes beyond his tasks and makes an extra effort. This enthusiasm flourishes in his passions, also. He observes the town's beloved priest in a scandalous situation. The priest, to protect himself, sends the two brothers away from their beloved town and the only family they have known. Trigiani boldly depicts the strength and sole authority of the Church and the goodness of the nuns.
Before they are banished by the Church, Ciro meets Enza, a lovely girl while he is digging the grave for her youngest sister. The author enforces the strength and love of family throughout the book and this tragedy initiates a spark of love. Enza is despondent when Ciro leaves without an explanation. This love affair is the basis of the strength of the story amid the immigrant struggle in Little Italy.Read more ›
I really enjoyed this novel, the first I head read by Trigiani. My understanding is that her novels are normally romances, but I felt like this novel was more like good historical fiction with a bit of romance thrown in. From the Italian Alps to the street of Little Italy to the trenches of France during World War I, this novel covers a lot and Trigiani does a great job of taking her reader along on her characters adventures. For me the characters felt genuine and I liked them, always something that helps me connect to a novel. My only real complaint with this enjoyable page turner was that although the novel is long (at nearly 400 pages) the author's pacing is uneven. She spends a lot of time in certain parts of the story, and very little in others.
Overall, I enjoyed this novel. It was a fairly light, quick read, with good historical detail and just the right amount of romance.
This is a sentimental book, a romantic book, and at 468 pages, a long book. Author Adriana Trigiani writes well, but at times over-writes. Her prose is packed with detail--long, sentimental speeches, improbable dialogue, incredible detail about foods, cooking, sewing, fabrics, architecture and shoe-making. And, of course, lots of adjectives. I found the book slow at first, hard to get into, but after the first fifty or one hundred pages, it began to come alive. The characters are richly evoked, strong and determined folk who take their own course in life. You will soon feel as if you know them personally.
If you're looking for a romantic saga of the early twentieth century, replete with love, family, and struggle, you will love this book, and I recommend it. It's not a quick and easy read, though. Reviewed by Louis N.Gruber.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
The story was not as easy to follow as I expected and did not become enjoyable til near the end. It did not seem to be her style of story telling.Published 6 hours ago by Nancy D Twitchell
Being an Italian American I thoroughly enjoyed this book.Published 21 hours ago by Antoinette Pecora
I’m a fan of Adriana Trigiani and have read most of her books. While I have thoroughly enjoyed them all, particularly the Big Stone Gap novels, this was by far my favorite. Read morePublished 5 days ago by MMON
The Shoemaker's Wife took me through a gamut of emotions. Intriguing and moving, this page turning epic romance deserves the ranking of must read for the patient and soft of heart.Published 12 days ago by Gregory DiSalvio
Enjoyed the details of Italy to Little Italy in NY. Made me want to go back in time where the world events meshed with the immigrant experience.Published 14 days ago by Lorraine Groh
I found this book very annoying. It was really in need of editing. Very long, unnecessary passages detailing meals eaten, and too many coincidences to make it believable. Read morePublished 18 days ago by Onlineshopper
Good historical fiction. There were a few fairy tale elements to it.Published 18 days ago by Cathy Parent