Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Review of Very Valentine, by Adriana Trigiani

Hello again!
Remember when I told you about those great books we have in our Leisure Reading section? I really can't urge you enough to come check out what we have. Soon we'll be going through the collection and choosing which books we're going to send back, because guess what? We're going to be expanding the section and getting in more titles soon! This would be a great time to give us some feedback, hint hint, if there's a new book coming out you're just dying to read.

I thought I'd do something different today and give you a book review of one of our current titles: Very Valentine by Adriana Trigiani (review by your library blogger):

As I finished Very Valentine, the eighth and most recent novel by Adriana Trigiani, I had to give a deep sigh of longing. Through her vivid words and loving description, the author awakened in me a heartfelt need I’d never known I had, a craving I’d never considered before. My very soul ached for that which it could never possess.

I simply had to go out and find a really, truly amazing pair of shoes.

Very Valentine is the story of Valentine Roncalli, the 33-year-old daughter of a loving but tumultuous Italian-American family living in New York City. Of her generation, she alone has chosen to join her grandmother in the family business, the Angelini Shoe Company. As her grandmother’s apprentice, Valentine learns the centuries-old craft of making shoes by hand, creating one-of-a-kind wedding shoes based on her grandfather’s original designs.

I wasn’t kidding about the desire for those shoes. While my previous experience with Trigiani had been with her Big Stone Gap series, here she makes Valentine’s New York every bit as vivid, if not more so, than the small-town Appalachian setting of Gap. I thought I could almost hear the traffic, smell the leather and wood of the shoe shop, taste the delicate flavors of the truffle pasta Valentine’s beau, the dashing chef Roman Falconi, prepares in his restaurant. Trigiani lavishes loving detail here, detailing the craftsmanship of the extraordinary shoes and the artistry of Roman’s cooking. The beauty of her own craft is its transparency: she manages to transport the reader into Valentine’s world without overburdening the narrative with the description. She knows which details will evoke the best response, but she lets the story flow.

And the story is light enough for a beach read, but no less enchanting for that. Valentine struggles to find a way to keep Angelini Shoes financially afloat in the 21st century without betraying the company’s old-world values, clashing with those who urge her grandmother to sell out. She takes it upon herself to protect what her family has built, as she worries about her own future, both economic and romantic. Accompanying her grandmother on a buying trip to Italy, Valentine uncovers a family secret and finally discovers her own true artistic voice.

The resolution doesn’t necessarily tie all loose ends into a tidy bow like the ribbon on a pair of Angelini wedding sandals, but there is a strong sense that our protagonist is going to meet the changes in her life on her own terms, with her best foot forward, so to speak.

I recommend Very Valentine to any woman looking to escape for a few hours into a very fine book. My only regret is—alas—those wonderful shoes aren’t included.

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