* Prices may differ from that shown
Lucia, Lucia is a novel by Adriana Trigiani. The novel is set in 1950s New York and is based around an Italian family who have now settled in America and own a grocery store. The novel begins in the present day with an old Lucia reminiscing about her past to Kit a young woman who lives in the same apartment block. Very soon we forget about Kit and are immersed in Lucias world in 1950s New York. Lucia belongs to a very traditional Italian family with its old-fashioned values and the importance of family, respect, traditions and marrying into the right Italian family. The 1950s were however were starting to become a changing time for women and although most pursued the traditional roles of becoming a wife and mother and giving up a career there were starting to become more who held on to their jobs and had a little more independence than their mothers before them. Lucia is one such woman.
Lucia is the main character of the book. She is a young, attractive woman, feisty, independent and probably a little ahead of her time. She works as a seamstress in a top New York Department store making beautiful wedding gowns and ball gowns for the well-off and best dressed ladies in town. Her skills have been taught to her by her grandmother and she uses them to her advantage ensuring she is always dressed immaculately by making her own clothes. She turns everyones eye as she walks past and is not short of potential husbands by families wishing a good traditional Italian girl for their sons. One such potential suitor is Dante, a good Italian boy who works alongside his father in the family business, an Italian bakery. Will Lucia opt for married life with the dependable, caring, supportive Dante with his overbearing mother or will she be tempted by the tall handsome stranger who comes into her life? To find out youll need to read the book.
The characters in Trigianis novel really come alive and you feel by the end of the novel you really get to know them. In addition to Lucia the central character we have her parents, her father is a traditional Italian Papa with a soft spot for his only daughter. He is busy trying to run the family business keeping the old traditions and resisting the modern way of doing business. Her mother is old fashioned but caring, she is embarrassed by her sons behaviour when he gets his girlfriend pregnant and has to have a quick wedding, this for her brings shame on her family. She married in a time when marriages were mainly arranged by the family and not always with someone you loved and she does not fully understand Lucias reluctance to settle down and marry.
Lucias closest friends are Ruth another seamstress who is also an independent woman but about to take on the responsibilities of marriage. She tries to support and advise Lucia but does not always understand why Lucia makes certain decisions. And finally Delmarr is her boss at the department store, he is fun, creative and dates many women but has no intentions of ever settling down. He is the one who introduces Lucia to the mystery man who will change the course of her life.
I really enjoyed this book, its a tale of love, mistake and regrets. There are sad moments which made me shed a tear but that is also balanced with lots of happy moments. I like the way Trigiani adds authentic detail to her book by adding in traditional Italian recipes, the kind you imagine being passed from generation to generation. They are added in a way that makes the book continue to flow, so Lucias sister-in-law passes a recipe to her after cooking a meal. I havent tried any of them yet but they sound nice. Its a novel full of the glamour of 1950s New York and you can really imagine the clothes and the people from the descriptions. You also really get to see inside the typical Italian family of those times with their traditions but also their warm hearts and how they put family first.
The author Adriana Trigiani was brought up in Big Stone Gap which is in Virginia and is also the location for her novel Big Stone Gap. There is the first chapter of this novel at the back of the book so you get a taster for what it might be like. At the start of the book is her acknowledgements which goes on for three pages which might seem slightly extensive. However on further reading we learn a little more about the author and of her suitability to write this novel and it gives the novel a little more authenticity. We learn that Adriana is of Italian descent and her grandmother (Lucia Bonicelli) was very skilled in both sewing and designing clothes. The recipes are from her other grandmother Viola Trigiani. She thanks a great many people and from this we learn that she has researched the history of Manhattan in the 1950s to make her novel as real as possible.
Published by Pocket Books
Price - £3.99 on Amazon
Last week my friend and I went on a shopping expedition. We were nearly ready to go home empty handed when pal omine spotted a new book shop that boasted a 3 for £10 poster outside. We grinned at one another and walked in. I was overjoyed when my friend handed over the decision making to me. Choose three books for her? OK then
One was a true crime, one was PS I Love You (even though I havent read it yet myself!) and the final one was this book, Lucia Lucia. Pal handed over this one to me as she knows I'm a fast reader. A week later she had it back!
* The story *
Its 1950. Lucia Sartori is a 25 year old living in Greenwich Village, New York. Shes still at home with her Italian parents and four brothers, but shes an independent gal who works in the local department store in the Special Order Department for Dressmaking and Tailoring, which she loves. Her family are traditionalists, they have values and dreams for their children and this extends to bella Lucia marrying one of their own a nice Italian boy.
Dante is Lucias future intended. Hes a baker and comes from good Italian stock. Theyve been engaged six months and the time has come to talk about the wedding. Mr and Mrs DeMartino are invited around to discuss the arrangements with Lucias parents but as soon as Lucia mentions she wants to carry on working in the shop after they are married, Mrs DeMartino starts a row at the dinner table. She expects Lucia to wait on her son hand and foot, as she has done, and bring up babies at home. Hot tempers flare and Lucia breaks off her engagement, unwilling to give up the career shes always dreamed of.
Hearing that she has been cursed by her Aunt when she was still a baby, Lucia is now beginning to wonder if this is going to affect her future
* What I liked *
The characters are very real. Lucia is a beauty and can have her pick of the men. Her brothers are always around to lend a hand if anyone says a wrong word against their only sister.
The strong family bond is a real plus in the book. Lucia has a close relationship with her father and this really comes through as she is the only daughter in a house full of men.
Papa, why do you worry about me? I ask, but I know the answer. He worries about everything: his family, his business and the world that is changing too fast for him. Since the war, business has doubled, his daughter has become a career girl and his sons have developed big mouths and lots of opinions.
I just loved the way that it was written. Trigiani has perfectly captured what its like to live in a large family back in the 50s. I grinned along with a lot of it my best friend in Australia is Italian and sitting around the dinner table with her extended family is an interesting affair! I could really identify with the close knit relationships in the book and the way they all pulled together in times of crisis, turning not only to God but to each other. The children have been taught that their father is head of the household but when it comes down to it, Mama Maria gives him a run for his money when a row breaks out!
The book is also interspersed with recipes that Lucia notes down for her collection. This is a neat touch to a book that already describes mouthwatering food at every opportunity!
* Reasons to read *
A trip to Italy in the middle of the book was eloquently described, from the tang of the citrus fruits growing on trellises to treading the cobbled streets for the afternoon cappuccino. Feasting on figs, blood oranges, sardines, Parmesan and hunks of bread in the Mediterranean sun brings Lucia and her family closer in idyllic surroundings.
Oh and theres a couple of mentions of things being swell which made me smile! Whatever happened to that word?!
* Overall *
Fashion, food and Italian ways three reasons why KM knew shed love this book. Of course theres a little romance in there too, a handsome stranger steps into Lucias life and puts a spanner in the works regarding her family and this takes up the latter half of the book as we see Lucias loyalties tested.
The chapters are fairly lengthy but are broken up somewhat so it is an easy book to pick up and put down. I read it fairly quickly as its not terribly long and I found I was enjoying it and had no problem reading large sections at a time.
Im going to give this five stars as I cant really fault it. Its not packed with action but it keeps you reading and I found I really liked the characters, not just Lucia but her parents and the family and friends too. Lucia is smart and beautiful, but she has her flaws and her choices arent always the right ones. As in all books it also has its sense of tragedy about it, which breaks up the feelgood factor slightly, reminding you that life has the ability to turn on you at any moment! In fact, dont tell anyone, but Mackie had a little tear in her eye. Ahem. * grins *
I do recommend this one. Most enjoyable. There are some acknowledgements at the back from the author which relate to her own family, which she has loosely based on some of the characters, and again, her love for them really shows through.
* Other info: *
My version is marked at £12 as its a hardback.
There is a paperback available, published in 2004
play.com have it for £5.49 (RRP £6.99)
* About the author *
Adriana Trigiani grew up in Big Stone Gap, Virginia in the 1970s. She now lives in New York City. She is an award-winning playwright and documentary film maker.
Big Stone Gap
Big Cherry Holler
Milk Glass Moon
The Queen of the Big Time
American Girls About Town
Cooking with my Sisters
Finally, if Trigianis books are good enough for Whoopi Goldberg and Sarah Jessica Parker (who apparently couldnt put Big Stone Gap down!), theyre good enough for La Mack! Ill be keeping an eye out for more by her. Enjoy!
Thanks for reading.
I came to Adriana Trigiani by way of the Big Stone Gap books, and had no hesitation in buying this book.
Set in 1950's New York it tells the story of an Italian American woman and her life, her work, family, friends and love.
I always rate a book on whether I can 'see' what I am reading, can I picture the peopleand places, see them meeting and interacting like a film before me, can the writer create these images with their words? Reading this book was like watching an Audrey Hepburn movie, beautiful, elegant, funny, moving and thoroughly enjoyable. In fact a fantastic way to spend a rainy weekend...
The narrative technique of this novel is a story within a story, an elderly Lucia recounts her life to a young neighbour, so you get the advantage of seeing into the past as well as finding out what might happen in the future.
This is no 'chick-lit' book, whilst it was very easy to read, I also found it quite thought provoking and would definitely read more by AT. But don't just take my word for it, read it for yourself...