Author: Adriana Trigiani
Provided Synopsis: 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.
Review: Initially, I was caught off guard by this book. The previous Adriana Trigiani book that I read was set in a historical time period while this one is contemporary. In my opinion, Trigiani really excels as a storyteller when she writes in a past time period or takes her characters to Italy. It is through these mediums that she brings settings to life and fleshes out her characters. This novel did not achieve that high level of storytelling that I know she is capable of, but it was still good enough for me to keep reading.
Valentine is a thirty-year-old Italian woman living in New York City. Five years ago she left her teaching job and a relationship to follow her passion: she decided to become an apprentice shoemaker in her grandmother’s shop. Since 1903 the Angelini Shoe Company has crafted custom wedding shoes. Times have changed, however, now that manufactured shoes are more practical to buy than custom ones. The shop is in financial trouble, her grandmother is not getting any younger, and something needs to change.
When we meet Valentine she is a woman that is trying to keep it together, but is still somewhat of a mess. She does not know what she truly wants. She has a passion, but can passion support you once the bills continue to pile in? Furthermore, where can passion in a relationship take her when her career will always come first?
Once Valentine heads to Italy with her grandmother the most fascinating character development occurs. She achieves a freedom and ability to learn about herself and what she wants to do. Through disappointment, contemplation, observation of others, the realization of the truth about relationships and how she behaves in them, along with a master course from a shoemaker in Capri, she learns lessons about life, love, family, career, and her art. I will take so many of the beautiful and poignant passages that Trigiani wrote in this section of the book with me for the rest of my life. This is where the book really came to life.