Book Review: The Shoemaker’s Wife by Adriana Trigiani

Title: The Shoemaker’s Wife
Author: Adriana Trigiani
Genre: Historical fiction
Publisher: Harper
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Source: Review copy from the publisher for a tour with TLC Book Tours
First line: The scalloped hem of Caterina Lazzari’s blue velvet coat grazed the fresh-fallen snow, leaving a pale pink path on the bricks as she walked across the empty piazza.

The majestic and haunting beauty of the Italian Alps is the setting of the first meeting of Enza, a practical beauty, and Ciro, a strapping mountain boy, who meet as teenagers, despite growing up in villages just a few miles apart. At the turn of the last century, when Ciro catches the local priest in a scandal, he is banished from his village and sent to hide in America as an apprentice to a shoemaker in Little Italy. Without explanation, he leaves a bereft Enza behind. Soon, Enza’s family faces disaster and she, too, is forced to go to America with her father to secure their future.

Unbeknownst to one another, they both build fledgling lives in America, Ciro masters shoemaking and Enza takes a factory job in Hoboken until fate intervenes and reunites them. But it is too late: Ciro has volunteered to serve in World War I and Enza, determined to forge a life without him, begins her impressive career as a seamstress at the Metropolitan Opera House that will sweep her into the glamorous salons of Manhattan and into the life of the international singing sensation, Enrico Caruso.

From the stately mansions of Carnegie Hill, to the cobblestone streets of Little Italy, over the perilous cliffs of northern Italy, to the white-capped lakes of northern Minnesota, these star-crossed lovers meet and separate, until, finally, the power of their love changes both of their lives forever.

Lush and evocative, told in tantalizing detail and enriched with lovable, unforgettable characters, The Shoemaker’s Wife is a portrait of the times, the places and the people who defined the immigrant experience, claiming their portion of the American dream with ambition and resolve, cutting it to fit their needs like the finest Italian silk.

The front cover flap – and several reviews – say that The Shoemaker’s Wife is the book that Adriana Trigiani was born to write. When I see phrases like that in reviews, I always think, “Come on, isn’t that a bit over the top?” Well, in this case, it is right on the nose. Last year, I experienced Trigiani’s work for the first time, loving the Valentine series. Then I read Lucia, Lucia and it was amazing – I honestly thought there was no way she could top it. But the story of her grandparents and their immigration from Italy was the perfect inspiration for what I’m sure will be called her life’s work.

I read a lot of historical fiction, but every once in a while a book comes along that plunges me right into the time period, immersing me in the lives of the people, the places they inhabit. I could smell the air of the Italian Alps, taste the pasta, hear Caruso singing, feel the supple leather of the shoes Ciro made. There was not a single section that dragged, nor a single time I wasn’t eager to pick the book up and dive back in. When I finished the last page, it was with the kind of sadness I only experience when I know I am going to miss the world of a book terribly.

If you’ve read and loved Adriana Trigiani before, you will not want to miss her grandparents’ story. And if you haven’t, this is the book that will have you seeking out her entire backlist. I can say nothing more except that you must read this book.

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22 Responses to Book Review: The Shoemaker’s Wife by Adriana Trigiani

  1. Kailana says:

    I have been curious about this author for a while, but never read her. Glad to hear this is so good!

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      Kelly – you should definitely give one of her books a try – she’s fantastic!

  2. Sandy
    Twitter: youvegottaread
    says:

    I have the Valentine series on audio but haven’t listened to it yet! And honestly, when I look at that cover, it feels like one of a million different historical fiction novels. But the description of this one! OMG. It sounds amazing. I’m going to have to have a Trigiani audio fest here pretty soon.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      Sandy – yes, you definitely need to give her a try! I really think you would like her.

  3. Mary
    Twitter: bookfanmb
    says:

    I’ve enjoyed every book of hers I’ve read – and I’ve read 99% of them :) I totally agree with your review. The Shoemaker’s Wife is a wonderful novel.

  4. Stephanie says:

    I loved this one! I am new to Trigiani so I need to read more of her stuff. I need to check out Lucia, Lucia.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      Stephanie – Lucia, Lucia is excellent on audio, if you listen to audiobooks. :)

  5. bermudaonion (Kathy)
    Twitter: bermudaonion
    says:

    I’m a huge fan of Adriana’s and I thought this book was fantastic too!

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      Kathy – I’m very happy for her that it’s getting such great reviews!

  6. Beverly S. says:

    I am listening to the unabridged audio version of this now. I love it…wonderful book. :)

  7. Marg
    Twitter: MargReads
    says:

    I am literally just about to go and start reading this book – my exciting Saturday night in, but if I like it anywhere as much as you did I am still going to be a happy camper!

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      Marg – it is the perfect book to spend a Saturday evening with!

  8. Sheila (Book Journey)
    Twitter: bookjourney
    says:

    I am thrilled to see you loved this too. Adriana wrote an amazing book. I felt I was right there with them.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      Sheila – me, too. Enza and Ciro are two characters who will stick with me for a long time.

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  10. Susan says:

    wow this is a pretty high review. I have not read Trigiani before, so should I start with her backlist or go to this one? Which of hers is the best one? cheers. and thanks for the heads up on her books.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      Susan – until I read this one, I would have called Lucia, Lucia my very favorite of her books, although I also loved the Valentine duology. I would say you could start with either this one or Lucia, Lucia, or Very Valentine – but if you prefer historical, go with this one or Lucia. :)

  11. Laura @ ImBookingIt
    Twitter: bookingit
    says:

    I held off on reading your review (or any other) until I had finished writing mine. This was my first book by this author, but it won’t be my last!

    I also loved how this book jumped off the pages.

  12. Pingback: The Sunday Salon – May 13, 2012 (Mother’s Day and wrapping up April’s reading) | BOOKS AND MOVIES