Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Book Review: Brava, Valentine by Adriana Trigiani

“Brava, Valentine” is the latest and second installment in a series written by New York Times best-selling author Adriana Trigiani, who sold more than 8 million copies of her uber popular “Big Stone Gap” series.

The series revolves around Valentine Roncalli, a shoe designer who works in New York City’s Greenwich Village, following literally in the family footsteps. Her grandfather Michel was a brilliant creative artist and founder of Angellini’s Shoes. And now with her grandfather’s passing, the prospect of modernizing the custom shoemaker’s business lies on the shoulders of Valentine. She’s a 35-year-old woman who at the book’s open is in Tuscany with her family celebrating the marriage of her beloved grandmother to the man who supplied the shoemakers with supple leather.

Valentine has all the modern conveniences and challenges of most single, 30-something women: demanding work, the desire to have a fulfilling relationship, meddlesome family members, a gay best friend and wondering if this is all there is in life.

At the wedding in Italy, Valentine reconnects with former flame Gianluca Vechiarelli, son of the octogenarian groom, and she flirts with the idea of romance, all while trying to launch the ready-to-wear line of shoes that hopes to keep the company’s fortunes and future afloat during challenging economic times. Her grandmother asks her to work with her cantankerous brother, a former Merrill Lynch banker who had been downsized, to help revive the family’s signature business.

What elevates this story is Trigiani’s uncanny ability to take the intricate family dynamics and dialogue and mesh them in a way that lifts off the page from melodrama to the situation every reader has experienced or can imagine. Whether Valentine is dealing with her parents, or drama between her sisters, it’s the relationships in all of Trigiani’s books that bind readers to the author and bring them back for more. Trigiani is a superbly skilled writer adept who creates characters that resonates with readers long after the books are through.

When it comes to classifying her books, Trigiani’s genre is known as “women’s fiction” but her talent lies beyond even that or even that dreaded label – “chick-lit.” No, these are thinking women’s books. And as the ultimate Renaissance women herself – she is an accomplished playwright, screenwriter – the author is perfectly suited for examining the multitudes of conflicting options women have in the 2010’s and beyond.

“Brava” is a standalone book; those who did not read the first installment, “Very Valentine” can pick it up and enjoy it as an individual book. But as in most series of note, it will nevertheless entice readers to start at the beginning, albeit out of order because this series is a delicious read.

“Brava, Valentine” is available at booksellers everywhere.

Join us on Tuesday, March 30 at 7 PM as we chat LIVE with author Adriana Trigiani. E-mail us at bookclub@carolinaweeklynewspapers.com for more details!

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