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Very Valentine: A Novel Hardcover – February 3, 2009
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Meet the Roncalli and Angelini families, a vibrant cast of colorful characters who navigate tricky family dynamics with hilarity and brio, from magical Manhattan to the picturesque hills of bella Italia. Very Valentine is the first novel in a trilogy and is sure to be the new favorite of Trigiani's millions of fans around the world.
In this luscious, contemporary family saga, the Angelini Shoe Company, makers of exquisite wedding shoes since 1903, is one of the last family-owned businesses in Greenwich Village. The company is on the verge of financial collapse. It falls to thirty-three-year-old Valentine Roncalli, the talented and determined apprentice to her grandmother, the master artisan Teodora Angelini, to bring the family's old-world craftsmanship into the twenty-first century and save the company from ruin.
While juggling a budding romance with dashing chef Roman Falconi, her duty to her family, and a design challenge presented by a prestigious department store, Valentine returns to Italy with her grandmother to learn new techniques and seek one-of-a-kind materials for building a pair of glorious shoes to beat their rivals. There, in Tuscany, Naples, and on the Isle of Capri, a family secret is revealed as Valentine discovers her artistic voice and much more, turning her life and the family business upside down in ways she never expected. Very Valentine is a sumptuous treat, a journey of dreams fulfilled, a celebration of love and loss filled with Trigiani's trademark heart and humor.
A Note from Adriana Trigiani
The story of this novel began with a lady on a roof. Every morning, I head over to the Hudson River Park for fresh air and a run (just found out the exhaust fumes of the West Side Highway could kill me more quickly than lack of exercise, go figure), and I became obsessed with a woman living on one of the last small buildings facing the river amidst the “progress” of glamorous high-rises and hotels. I’d wonder, “Why does she stay?” Most summer mornings she was in her housecoat tending to tomato plants that line the fence of her rooftop. I never waved or rang her bell, but I connected to her. She reminded me of my grandmothers, who had their own gardens, and for most of their widowed lives, lived alone. I began to look for the woman, and when I saw her, I felt relieved, as though life wasn’t really racing by, and that the past was somehow, in the form of this lady, still alive.
This lady, whose name I do not know and whom I have never met, brought me to the story of Carlo Bonicelli, my grandfather, a shoemaker. I keep a photograph of him on my desk to remind me of the artisans that came before me. (It’s a crowded desktop; those of you who read Lucia, Lucia know about the seamstresses in my family!)
My grandfather Carlo died when he was thirty-nine years old. My grandmother told me that while he repaired shoes and built them, his dream was to design them. He did not live long enough to see his dream materialize. With my grandmother gone, I asked my mother about him, about his work. This wasn’t easy, as my mom cries whenever she talks about her father. As those of you dutiful children out there know, when our mothers cry, it’s like somebody’s plunging a knife into our chests. But this time, I asked her not to cry, and she told me the story of the Bonicelli shoes. Then I went to Italy with my dear pal Gina Casella, (with our five-year-old daughters in tow) to learn how to make shoes. I met a few of the great artisans, who became the inspiration for the shoemakers in this novel.
The trip changed my creative life, but it also changed the substance and course of this story. I come from people who survived by the labor of their own hands in a glorious country of their choice (our United States). I always knew this, but now I understand it. I only live as an artist because they gave me their stories, and because you read them. So, Dear Reader (love it--so Jane Austen!), Very Valentine is for you. It’s about all of us: our family dynamics, our dreams, our luck or lack of it in matters of the heart, and how we negotiate going forward, in a world that’s moving so fast, even a stroll is now a blur. This is the first of three books about Valentine Roncalli and her family of shoemakers. When I wrote it, I wanted to bring you old world craftsmanship, the magical setting of Greenwich Village, in a contemporary family saga told in vivid detail. I hope you enjoy it.
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
- Publisher : Harper; Stated First Edition (February 3, 2009)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 384 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0061257052
- ISBN-13 : 978-0061257056
- Item Weight : 1.35 pounds
- Dimensions : 6 x 1.21 x 9 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #490,987 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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Top reviews from the United States
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Yet, even Valentine's romance is something more than readers might expect. Valentine deals with some real issues about balancing her career, her boyfriend's career, and their relationship. Her struggles are realistic and well conveyed by Trigiani.
About halfway through this book, the action moves to Italy and here is where things became a bit dreamy for me. I love Italiy and Trigiani has a real knack for bringing it to life for the reader. I loved Trigiani's voice and descriptions of Arezzo and Capri--the later I once visited as a young teenager and now am itching to revisit!
I will admit that my enjoyment of this book was hampered a bit, though no fault of the book. Very Valentine is the first in the trilogy and I recently read the final book, The Supreme Macaroni Company, without knowing that it finished this trilogy. Thus, I went through this book already knowing how Valentine and the rest of the characters would end up. But, as I said, I can only blame that on my own ignorance.
Very Valentine is a lighter read--which is perfect if you are looking for something purely entertaining, but not fluffy. I heartily recommend it and will be starting part two, Brava, Valentine, very soon!
Unfortunately, the major characters weren’t treated properly. It seemed like maybe this book was over-edited, cutting out a lot of detail on the person who was supposed to be Valentine’s love interest. It felt like the relationship with Roman went from absolute zero to absolute love WAY too fast, and it turns out he was an unnecessary character anyway. One of my peeves is minor characters thrust into major roles. Roman does nothing to progress the story. If he was left out we would have known just as much about Valentine and Angelini Shoes, and we could have gotten to the end of the book with her successes intact. He was a distraction, and at the end I wondered why he was even in there. He was useless.
As for Valentine herself, on the first page (and on subsequent pages) the author goes out of her way to make sure we understand that she’s not the pretty one, not the smart one, but rather the funny one. The character was never funny. She seemed depressed and angry most of the time. Although those emotions worked for this character in this story, stop telling us she’s funny. She’s not. With as many men throwing themselves at her during the course of the book, it seems like she could pass for the pretty one. Or the sexy one. The character was set up to be something that the story didn’t bear out, so maybe the reader was supposed to take it on faith. Not a great idea in storytelling.
All that said, I would read another Valentine book. As stated earlier, there was a lot to like about Very Valentine. Pieces of the story were well told and the author does a fantastic job with descriptions of colors, shoes, and places. She also did very well with the actual minor characters and I really enjoyed those parts. With better editing and maybe some more time to hash out the odd / conflicting loose pieces, and another 100 pages to examine Roman as a real love interest and to develop the romantic story line, this book would be a 5/5.
The cast of characters is vibrant, colorful and enchanting. The story takes place in the glorious Manhattan and also in the picture perfect hills of Italy.
Valentine Roncalli lives with her 80 year old grandmother and they work together on the Angelini Shoe Company. Her family has been dedicated to making exquisite wedding shoes since 1903; they are one of the last family owned businesses in Greenwich Village and now the company is facing financial collapse and Valentine wants to save the business because of what it represents and because she loves the trade.
Teodora Angelini is Valentine's grandmother and the master artisan but she is old and has no clue as to how she should expand her brand and grow the business in the 21st century.
Valentine wants to assume charge but her brother Alfred, wants to see the building altogether and leave Valentine without a job or a home.
While juggling a romance with a gorgeous chef called Roman Falconi, her duty to her family, and a design challenge that must be presented to Bergdorf, Valentine goes to Italy with Teodora to learn new techniques and seek one of a kind materials for her shoes.
In Italy she will discover that her grandma holds a dear secret and she will also learn that her romance is not as important for Roman as it is for her. The trip will make her change and become a better artiste and a more mature woman, one who can take a challenge and make it work in her favor.
This book is a sumptuous treat, a journey of dreams fulfilled, a celebration of love and loss filled with Trigiani's heart and humor. A must read, go and get it I just can't wait for the saga to continue!
Top reviews from other countries
I am so sorry I did, and I cannot finish it. If the tedious descriptions of Valentine’s and her family’s clothing weren’t enough, there are the meals. Italian-Americans love eating the food of their historical homeland! Who knew. Taking all of this out would leave enough for a magazine story, that is how little plot this book has.
I could not take to Valentine, she has no sense of humour and completely self absorbed. I have just passed the halfway mark and am still waiting for the story to start making sense. It is like wading through treacle, and each time I pick it up to read the next bit, I find I have forgotten the parts I’ve already read.
The trouble I have with feminist meanderings about having it all, is they are all written by privileged middle class women. None of their heroines are stressed because they want to have husband children and their job in a supermarket or call centre. No, their “careers” are shoe designers, fashion designers, fashion writers, actresses etc are millions of miles away from the lives most of us live.
Romance, when written well takes the reader away from the real world and offers an escape into wish fulfilment or fantasy. This didn’t work for me. I just can’t finish it, life is too short to waste on a bad book.
Two things made me want to dislike this book. First, as a European, it annoys me when Americans call themselves Italians. Italians are Italians. They come from Italy.
Second, we are past 10% into the book before an initiating event occurs that starts the story moving. That’s 10% of the book that is pure introduction, exposition and wondering if something is going to happen soon.
I'm telling you this so you know Trigiani won me over in spite of all this.
The Italian American problem didn’t matter so much because Trigiani is able to vividly reproduce this American subculture with writing that is both beautiful and funny. Thus 10% of the book being exposition feels like having dinner with someone delightful sharing stories about a family wedding. It doesn’t matter what I think about American’s imagining they’re Italians – Trigiani shows us what this means to them and how it permeates their lives.
As for the romance, this is a love story between Valentine and her dream – making shoes - as much as it is Valentine and Roman. As her relationships help her discover more about herself, you’ll join a journey of self-discover and self-affirmation delightfully positive and real. The research into shoemaking is top notch and Trigiani writes this so well it fascinates
I rather miss Valentine now the book is finished – although this is the first of a trilogy so I can always find out what happens next. But this book was satisfying, complete, and human. I wouldn’t hesitate to read more of this author’s work
A truly superb pair of books,