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Very ValentineReview - Very Valentine
A Novel
by Adriana Trigiani
HarperAudio, 2009
Review by Christian Perring
Sep 21st 2010 (Volume 14, Issue 38)

Valentine Roncalli is Italian American, in her thirties, and she is working as an apprentice to her grandmother in the family business of custom making shoes for brides.  Not long ago she broke up with her fiancé and now she is focusing on work.  Her grandmother is 80 and getting more frail.  The shoe business is struggling.  They have a store in lower Manhattan, and they own the building.  Valentine's brother is pressuring them to sell the building, which would effectively mean finishing the business altogether.  But it has been a family tradition for a century, and Valentine take great satisfaction from the work.  She does not want to give it up, even though it was only 4 years ago since she gave up her teaching job to start working in the family business. 

The other main theme in Very Valentine is romance.  She starts a relationship with a Manhattan chef opening a new restaurant, but it does not go smoothly because they are both so busy.  They have passion together, but Valentine has to work out whether they can make it work.  Valentine is worried that she will spend the rest of her life as the single daughter of her family.  Even though the novel has many of the standard plot devices of romantic novels -- a wedding theme all the way through the book and starting off with a wedding -- it is more than a romance novel.  It is about Italian American culture, and although I'm no expert, I am surrounded by people of Italian heritage, and it strikes me as a good portrayal.

This charming novel has plenty of twists and turns.  Valentine's family is especially well drawn, partly because they both love and fight with each other most of the time, which keeps the plot lively.  The writing is particularly gripping -- I had tried to listen to several audiobooks at the time, and none held my attention, but this one, which I was skeptical about at first, surprised me.  I found myself enjoying the descriptions and wanting to know what happened next.  It helped that the story is set mainly in Manhattan and Long Island, since these are places I know well.  The description of a visit to Italy is vivid.  The reading of the unabridged audiobook by Cassandra Campbell helps is really excellent: full of energy and humor.   

 

Link: Author website

 

© 2010 Christian Perring        

 

 

Christian Perring, Professor of Philosophy, Dowling College, New York


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