Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Review: Very Valentine

Summary: Meet the Roncalli and Angelini families, a vibrant cast of colorful characters who navigate tricky family dynamics with hilarity and brio, from magical Manhattan to the picturesque hills of bella Italia. Very Valentine is the first novel in a trilogy and is sure to be the new favorite of Trigiani's millions of fans around the world.

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. - Harper

I have been waiting for what seems like forever for Adriana Trigiani's latest novel VERY VALENTINE; and I have been so excited the past few weeks because I was starting to see her and her book everywhere. I felt like I was having my own personal countdown. I reserved my copy at the library months ago and was thrilled to get the e-mail notification that the book was waiting for me (on the pub date!) I ran over to the library right away because I couldn't wait to curl up and read it.

I am a HUGE fan of Adriana Trigiani! I have read all of her novels and I even chose one of her books as a book club selection a few years ago. Unfortunately, this was before I knew that Ms. Trigiani is a huge supporter of book clubs and speaks with two to three clubs a week! I think the only book that I haven't read is her cookbook COOKING WITH MY SISTERS; and I keep telling myself that I have to get it (but my husband has banned me from bringing more cookbooks into the house.) I am going to warn you upfront in this review that there is little, if any, chance that I would ever say anything negative about her or one of her books. She is like a rock star to me!

I definitely enjoyed reading VERY VALENTINE. I'm still processing it so I'm not entirely sure it was my favorite Trigiani book, but the story and the characters are still in my thoughts so that's a sign to me of a very good book. I absolutely love Ms. Trigiani's writing style and her descriptions of ...well, everything! I am absolutely dying to visit Italy after reading about the beautiful villages as well as the gorgeous countryside (and of course the delicious sounding food!) And her descriptions of the shoes, the materials used to make them, and how the shoemakers' actually created a pair from hand were incredible. I swear that all the beautiful images of shoes made me want to go out and buy a new pair or two (or three...) -- although I have to be honest when I say that I get that feeling quite a bit.

Although I did enjoy learning about the craft of shoe making and "visiting" Italy, I especially appreciated all the relationship stories in this novel. I loved Valentine's family dynamics because they seemed very real to me -- from the love to the bickering and even the bullying; but I also enjoyed the romantic relationships that were featured in this novel. Some of my favorite moments in the book were when Valentine was able to see her grandparents' and parents' marriages through an adult's eyes. She learned that their relationships were far from perfect, and that marriages have ups and downs, but love is ultimately the most important thing.

After I finished VERY VALENTINE, I heard that it is the first book in Ms. Trigiani's new series. That really makes a lot of sense for me because I am very anxious to see what happens to a few of characters -- there is still so much I want to hear from these characters. I loved Valentine and her grandmother and definitely want to see more of them in future books; but the supporting characters were also terrific. Valentine's family was the typical New York Italian family and I found myself laughing at their interactions. I especially found Valentine's mother Mike to be hilarious -- I can picture her perfectly with her animal print accessories. And since VERY VALENTINE is an Adriana Trigiani novel, I feel like I know these people because she describes them so well and makes them so human. I have to admit that I'm missing them already!

I think that VERY VALENTINE would make an excellent book club selection. As is the case with all of Ms. Trigiani's novels, there is an excellent reading guide available. I am actually considering picking it for a future discussion book for my club because I would love to have the opportunity to talk with Ms. Trigiani (that's if I could speak coherently to her.) There is so much to talk about with the various characters and their actions. I also think the different types of romantic relationships (and love) would stimulate a great deal of discussion.

If you're a fan of Adiana Trigiani and her books, then you're not going to be disappointed with VERY VALENTINE! And if you aren't familiar with Ms. Trigiani, then what are you waiting for?


Michele said...

Definitely going to read this soon! Thanks for the review.

Meghan said...

Well, you and Kathy have certainly convinced me. I have to find one of her books now.

Jill said...

Great review! I was so excited to get my copy from the library on the pub date, too! I just finished this one and really enjoyed it (review to come). I had only read the Big Stone Gap series up until this point.

bermudaonion said...

Julie, your review is excellent, as always. I wish we could go to Italy together to buy some shoes and eat!

Karlie said...

I really enjoyed this book too!

Anna said...

One of my friends has said I really need to read her books, but I haven't yet. After reading your glowing praise for her writing, I know I must check them out!

Diary of an Eccentric

Amy said...

you know, I've never read anything by her! Maybe I'll check out some of her books sometime!

S. Krishna said...

Great review! I'm hoping to get to this one next.