Adriana Trigiani is officially my favourite authoress now, on par with Sophie Kinsella on my book (or book shelf?). I admit that I had been eyeing ‘Very Valentine’ since before Christmas last year, but was put off by its expensive price. I was also reluctant to start reading a story from an author I haven’t read before. Then I spotted the smaller TPB version of VV last May at the airport (most of my fave books I encountered in airports!), really browsed the first few pages, and… well, I can’t resist a novel that talks about shoes (particularly bespoke wedding shoes), can’t I?
But Adriana delivers much more than a quench for my thirst for good shoes and a good story about how bespoke shoes are made. She delivers Life itself that speaks through the heroine Valentine Roncalli, an Italian American living in Greenwich Village New York (I swear, if I ever go to NYC, I shall visit Greenwich Village. As Colin Firth’s Darcy said: “I shall!”). In many ways, I can relate to Valentine. Single woman of mid 30s, has big family that more often than not are noisy about her personal life, has to prove to herself that she can save and live her dream life… and has a good taste of well-made and comfortable shoes. Okay, I don’t have a nice tomato garden at the rooftop, but I am contemplating about it now.
Reading ‘Very Valentine’ is like… eating a meal so delicious, you don’t want to finish too early. You want to eat it bits by bits, because the slower you eat it, the more passionate you become of the food. Like eating sushi (please forgive the reference of a non Italian food). Unless you are very hungry (like I was a few years ago after a long day of kid drawing festival), you tend to eat the sushi slowly but sure. You savour every bit, marvel at the fresh pink hue of the salmon on top of the vinegary rice before dunking it to the salty ketchup with a hint of wasabi and ginger. Then, even as you eat it, you savour every taste that marvels in your mouth. Divine.
That’s how I describe my way of reading VV. Slowly, page per page, marvelling at every paragraph, sometimes even every word that ignite my imagination of shoes, New York, and Italy. In the love department, I was like… ‘so soon??’ when Valentine met Roman (soon to be her new beau) who used to catch her showering the rooftop tomatoes naked (yeah, it was a hot summer night after an annoying wedding party)… but then I kinda got along with it. But – although I originally thought of him as indecent and pervert – I have to admit that I was intrigued by Gianluca’s presence. Something about him that I like about, and although I was sad that Val and Roman didn’t work it out, I found myself intrigued by the prospect of Val and Gianluca. Particularly after reading the sneak peek of ‘Encore Valentine’ (in the US would be ‘Brava Valentine’) with Gianluca as the major actor in the first few pages.
More than giving me good romance, Adriana also gave me friendship through Val’s relationship with Gram, former nude dancer June, and Gabriel (who if he wasn’t a gay, I would promote him to be Val’s beau; and he apparently agrees! No. Scratch that. Had Gabriel been a normal guy, I would have dated him myself!). Family problems are also fleshed out, along with each member’s way of coping with them. It made me wish that my family had been better, but who am I kidding…
And of course, the shoes. I need to get back to this very important ^_^ matter because really. This is the first novel with shoes as the main actor/actress really, for without them, the novel would not exist. Adriana Trigiani gave me a 4 nights crash course on the world of shoes (particularly bespoke shoes), what to expect and look for in a pair of well-made shoes, and the love and devotion these shoe artists effuse into a pair of shoes. As a shoe aficionado who champions gorgeous, lovely AND comfortable shoes, I thank her for giving me a very nice book to get back to again and again.
Adriana also satisfied my love for Italian food. Expertly, she weaved the scenes where any character (usually Roman) cooked an Italian meal, pointing out the difficulties, best ingredients for the said meal, and what to expect from such a meal. If not salivating over the beautifully described shoes (or sighing at Gianluca), I would salivate over Italian food in this book. Yumm…
Conclusion: Five stars for Very Valentine.
Now, I need to save some money for that pair of sunflower yellow Sundance ballet flats. Ahem. And to pay my rent, save for the dream house, etc. And to write the review of ‘Encore Valentine’, which is the sequel of ‘Very Valentine’. But that can wait. I need to make dinner. I think tonight is pasta.
Pic: UK and OZ version of 'Very Valentine' cover (the small paperback) from Amazon UK
PS 1 June 2010:
I forgot one very important thing. One of the things I admire the most from Valentine is her determination. She believes in what she does, and she loves doing it. She loves making beautiful bespoke shoes that make women happy. And when piling debts almost forced her and Gram to either sell the shop and move somewhere else (or close the business entirely), Val looked here and there to save her company. Which she did, eventually, but not before she discovered what truly mattered for her, and being honest about it. I learned a lot from her.