Cobblers, Greenwich Village, and a big, Italian family — oh my! Adriana Trigiani’s Very Valentine is one of those engrossing, fulfilling novels that made me wish I could step right through the pages and settle onto the characters’ rooftop garden, joining in all the family antics and trying to sort out the messy, loving world that is the Roncallis’ lives.
Valentine Roncalli is 33, unmarried and living with her grandmother in an old building in Greenwich Village — but it’s not anywhere near as sad as it may sound. Teodora and Valentine run Angelini Shoe Company, a business that’s created custom-made wedding shoes since Valentine’s great-grandfather came to America from Italy last century. Though the business has fallen into tough financial times, Valentine and Teodora work tirelessly to create beautiful, sturdy pieces of art that still bring in the brides.
Valentine is content that her life with Gram is moving in a steady direction, even if she secretly hopes to burst beyond the title of an “apprentice” and create new, innovative designs that take a step beyond her great-grandfather’s original sketches. Her love life is at a stalemate — a point made quite obvious as she sits at her baby sister’s lavish wedding — and she doesn’t see that improving any time soon . . . until she meets Roman Falconi, a chef and restaurant owner, in a pretty unconventional way.
Soon, Valentine is thinking more and more about her life and the steps she’s taken to get where she is — and wondering more about the destiny of Angelini Shoes. A trip to Italy, with its general restorative powers, transforms the way she sees . . . everything. And coming home to Greenwich Village can never be the same.
Quite honestly, I’m in love with Very Valentine. Nothing I crave in an awesome novel was missing here, including a big, loving family with their own set of issues; fresh, dynamic and fleshed-out characters; beautiful, lush descriptions that transform New York City and Tuscany into mystical places you’d see in dreams; romance and a love affair that, while sweeping, are realistic and endearing. The dialogue was fantastic, and I loved the interplay between Valentine and her sisters Tess and Jaclyn. While oldest brother and financier Alfred definitely got on my nerves, I even felt a little for him, too. And to see Valentine and her grandmother’s close relationship was incredibly heartwarming.
Basically, this book was something new — as I flipped page after page, I didn’t have that icky feeling of “Haven’t I read this all somewhere before?” I mean, Valentine makes shoes. I can tell you quite seriously I have yet to find a cobbler as a main character in any of the fiction I’ve read. Valentine is a strong, intelligent woman who isn’t waiting for love to come and “save” her from her life . . . she makes things happen for herself. Romance is the cherry on top of the dessert, not the cake and ice cream itself. I loved that about it — and her.
This book was like the beautiful, well-crafted shoes Valentine herself makes — gorgeous, custom and flawless. I can’t wait to see what happens in Encore, Valentine, the next book in the series, slated to be released in February 2010!
5 out of 5!