The Shoemaker's Wife by Adriana Trigiani

Oct 26, 2012

This book was a slow start for me...and by slow, I mean no less than 100 pages of initial drag. And even after it "picked up," it never really took off. In fact, I'm kind of surprised I came back to it after I took a break and devoured Wonder. I can be determined sometimes.

At the turn of the century, Ciro Lazzari and Enza Ravanelli live in northern Italy in two different villages spaced just a few miles apart. When the story begins, Ciro's father has just passed away (in a tragic mining accident in America) and his mother is leaving him and his brother at a convent. Enza, on the other hand, is the oldest of six children. She is strong, kind, and hardworking. Enza and Ciro meet when they are both fifteen but shortly after that Ciro is sent away to America to work for a shoemaker. He leaves without saying good-bye to Enza. Eventually, Enza and her father also end up in America to work and earn money to build a new home in Italy. Over the years, Enza's and Ciro's lives sporadically converge here and there until they get married and settle in Minnesota.

First, let me start with what I liked because obviously I liked something or I wouldn't have kept reading:
  • The time period and historical nature of the book; 1905-1945 is a time period that I always tend to gravitate toward. I like the culture, the music, the styles, as well as the big industrial changes that were taking place. The two World Wars always pull at my emotions as well...I think they just feel a little closer to home than the wars before them.
  • The setting; I could see the mountains of Italy, the crowds of Manhattan, and the simplicity of Minnesota. I wanted to visit all three places.
  • The Metropolitan Opera; by far, my favorite part of the book was when Enza was working as one of the costume designers for the Metropolitan Opera. It sounded like such a romantic and exotic world, working behind the scenes of such vast productions. I was more than a little disappointed when she moved to Minnesota.
And now, what made this book draaaaaag for me:
  • The time period; I realize I'm contradicting myself. Did you notice the span of years I mentioned above? 1905-1945? That's not just one period; that's more like four, or even five, depending on how you break it down. That's a lot to cover in one book. I love each one of those spans of years, but altogether, it was just too difficult to maintain an even and captivating pacing. 
  • The writing; it just was not my style. It was repetitive (I can't even count the number of times it mentioned Ciro's desire to marry a good woman who would go through life with him). It was mainly just that their same thought processes and feelings were described over and over again in much the same way. Also, you know how in every creative writing class, they tell you, "Show; don't tell"? I felt like the whole book was all telling. (I should probably tone down the superlatives, but that's what it seemed like.) Then, for all its repetitiveness, I felt like some things didn't get explained well enough...they just happened (starting their own business and moving to Minnesota, for example).
  • Ciro; I didn't like him. And that was a major problem since he was the leading man and all. I think he was kind of supposed to encapsulate the stereotypical Italian man (whatever that's supposed to mean): handsome (although he was blonde...not saying that's not attractive, just not very stereotypical Italian), emotional, moody, romantic, lover of beauty. I don't know that any of those qualities are particularly redeeming anyway, but then he was also selfish and inconsiderate, and he was not pious or virtuous (there are a couple of references plus one scene that describe his immoral conduct). He is hardworking and kind and does place a great deal of importance on family, but even as the book progressed and he matured and settled down, I still never really liked him all that much
  • The romance; there wasn't enough substance to make it believable to me. As I stated in the summary, over the course of ten years, Enza and Ciro have a few brief and scattered meetings. Enza loves Ciro from the beginning and pines for him, but Ciro never pines for her, and then, bam, he decides he wants to marry her, and he does. All I'd seen up to that point was Ciro acting like he liked Enza whenever they ran into each other, but then promptly forgetting about her and running after another girl. It was a romance that I knew was inevitable but that I was not necessarily cheering for.
  • Poor editing; I found more than the usual number of typos and little inconsistencies (Enza putting on her coat twice in one scene, for example). With all the other aforementioned repetition, it just added to my annoyance. 
I had really high hopes for this book. It has received a lot of praise and attention, and I think it really did have a lot of potential, but in the end, I found it long and not overly engaging.


  1. I wonder if it's better or worse as an audio. Great honest review doll!

  2. Thanks! I wondered if I wanted to read this after really enjoying "Big Stone Gap". It sounded completely different and from what you've written it was. "Big Stone Gap", if memory serves, gained most of it's charm from minor characters and it had it's flaws but I don't remember it moving slowly. Perhaps it's a skill for an author to be able to capture period and place that well in her writing to create such different results- but if you've got a winning formula why change? I can see arguments both ways.

  3. I liked the books for its telling of the Italian immigrants' experiences. The descriptions of the different settings kept you involved with the story. The characters not keeping in contact by letter with one another, detracted from the story and its credibility (unless that was the case in the early 20th century).

    Cath Brookes (TRUSTprice - Software Download)


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