Unfortunately I couldn’t make it to Book Club this week, so many of the comments I am about to make are my own personal opinion, though after having spoken to one member who did go, it seems my thoughts aren’t too far from the opinions of most people.
The book was The Shoemaker’s Wife by Adriana Trigiani, the description of which is a “riveting historical epic of love and family, war and loss, risk and destiny.” The title and the description are two of my main problems with this book, as both, to me, are completely misleading. The majority of this book is not about a shoemakers wife, the love story left me cold and I didn’t really get the sense that any of the so called risks the characters were taking were particularly risky at all.
I should probably tell you what this book is about, and I’ll start by describing what I thought it would be about, after reading the blurb. Beginning at the turn of the 20th Century, two teenagers from the Italian Alps, Enza and Ciro, meet and fall madly in love. But before they can do anything about it, Ciro is forced to leave the village and move to America without explanation, where he becomes a shoemakers apprentice. Enza is left behind, bereft, but soon is also forced to move to America to make money to ensure the survival of her family, following which, fate brings the lovers back together again.
The book was actually about two teenagers who kissed once and then didn’t much think about each other until they met again some years later, at which point they still didn’t seem that bothered. Even when Ciro joined up and fought in France during the Great War, neither seemed to care that much about their separation from the other. The text was padded out with far too many metaphors and similes for my liking – I hate it when characters in books (who are supposed to be realistic) speak in a way that real people would never actually speak. The lengthy descriptions of Enza’s job as a seamstress at the Metropolitan Opera House were unnecessary and didn’t add anything to the story, while Ciro’s time at the front and his subsequent “epiphany” were pretty much glossed over. It became rapidly clear what Trigiani is better at and more interested in writing about. If I had to choose a favourite character I would probably say Laura, the lifelong friend Enza makes when she travels to New York. She’s feisty and likeable, unlike Enza herself, unfortunately.
I asked if there were any positive comments made about this book during the Book Club discussion, to which the reply was, “I said it was an easy read. Someone else described it as Ok.” I felt like this book had lots of potential, with a great premise, and I did want to know what fate would ultimately befall the characters. But I just couldn’t engage very deeply with either Enza or Ciro, and every scene which should have been big and magical and heart wrenching just, to me, fell a little flat. I’m genuinely sorry to say – two and a half stars.