* Prices may differ from that shown
Review of 'Queen of The Big Time', a novel by Adriana Trigiani.
I am reviewing the hardback version of this novel, published by Simon & Schuster Ltd, 352 pages, ISBN 978-0743239288, jacket price £8.99. Genre:- modern fiction/family saga.
Available from www.amazon.co.uk for £5.49 new or from 0.01p used.
Set in rural Pennsylvania, this novel covers the period 1924-1971.
We first meet Nella Castelluca as a 14 year old girl, she is the middle child in the family of five daughters. The Castelluca family are originally from the Bari region of Italy and they live in Roseta, a small town that has sprung up around the mines of the area. The residents of Roseta are mainly Italian or Welsh.
The Castellucas run a small farm around three miles outside of the town. All the family chip in with the farm work, although Papa Castelluca occasionally works in the mines to supplement his family's income.
Nella is a bright girl, her teacher persuades her parents to allow her to continue her education at the senior school in Roseta when she reaches 14 and to Nella's surprise and delight, her parents agree. Nella yearns to live in the town and to take part in the 'Big Time' parade, an annual festival organised by the local Catholic church. A Queen is chosen each year and although Nella knows that she is no great beauty, she would like the opportunity to run for Queen. She is horrified when she finds out that the girl who sells the most charity tickets is crowned Queen, and that the role has nothing to do with personality, looks or devotion to religion.
Nella takes her place at the senior school and is a very promising student, she makes friends with other Italian girls and although she has to walk three miles each way to school everyday, she loves her schooling and hopes to become a teacher.
At 14, Nella also meets the handsome, worldly, irresistible Renato Lanzara and she believes she has found the love of her life, even though he is some 7 years older than her.
When tragedy strikes the Castelluca family, Nella's life alters overnight, her childhood is over and her life takes on a totally different perspective to that which she had imagined.
The storyline then continues through Nella's life with many a twist and turn, until her death in 1971.
==About the Author==
Adriana Trigiani was raised in a small coal-mining town in South west Virginia in a big Italian family. It is clear that she has drawn on her own family background in Queen of The Big Time.
A talented lady, after graduating from Saint Mary's College in South Bend, Indiana, she moved to New York to become a playwright. Whilst in New York, she founded an all-female comedy troupe called "The Outcasts," which performed on the cabaret circuit for seven years. Adriana has also worked in television, among her many television credits, she was a writer/producer on The Cosby Show, A Different World, and executive producer/head writer for City Kids for Jim Henson Productions. Her Lifetime television special, Growing up Funny, garnered an Emmy nomination for Lily Tomlin.
Now a novelist, Adriana is married to Tim Stephenson and they live in Greenwich Village with their daughter, Lucia.
==My Thoughts and Conclusion==
I had read one of this author's novels before and enjoyed it, so was hopeful of a good read when I started 'Queen of The Big Time'. I was not to be disappointed as in my opinion, this novel was even better than 'the Big Stone Gap', the other Adriana Trigiani book I had read.
The storyline is fairly fast paced as the author guides us through the realities of Italian immigrants settling in the USA in the first half of the last century. The Italian families stuck together and re-created the exact environment they had come from Italy. As an example, neighbours from Italy would become neighbours in America.
The research that went into this novel must have been phenomenal and the author's own background has played an major part in this, as she explains in the acknowledgements section of the book.
The characters within this novel are so very well drawn that I was pulled into the plot within the first few pages. Nella is a strong woman, a woman of principle, who is as determined in her middle age as she was as a girl. She is a likeable central character and one that I warmed to. Nella's parents are also very central to the story and Papa Castelluca in particular is very well described. His pride in his girls and his love of the land are obvious. He and his wife are still very much Italians, even after decades of American citizenship.
The plot is a simple one in many ways, but there are enough twists in the tale to hold the readers interest. In Queen of The Big Time, the author has created a beautiful tale of family life, romance, hardship and tragedy all bound up with a believable cast of characters. The writing is crisp and the dialogue is very good. I enjoyed reading this novel, it is definitely an easy read, the sort of book that is ideal to while away a wet afternoon with!
The novel has a little of everything, just as real life does . It has the kind of successes, disappointments, sadnesses and joys that most of us experience throughout life. I particularly enjoyed learning about the lifestyle of immigrants entering the USA in the last century, and felt this made for a very readable and interesting book, one I would certainly recommend to others.
I am awarding this novel a 5* rating.
Thank you for reading.
©brittle1906 March 2011
N.B. My review may appear on other sites under the same user name.
If you like romantic fiction that is not too heavy to digest, then this is probably a good book for you. Adriana Trigiani has written quite a few books and is known mostly for her best-selling Lucia Lucia. Personally, I have never read her work before, and was unsure of what to expect, other than that it was romance, as the cover clearly displays a bride in a field of flowers.
The book begins well with the introduction of the main character, Nella Castelluca, a farmers daughter brought up in America in the twenties, in a town called Roseto. I liked her character quite a lot, as she is portrayed as a strong willed girl with ideas and ambitions to get away from her farm roots, and to become a teacher. It's a strong book in its own right because what it describes is the way in which Italian immigrants in America viewed the new land they had chosen for home, whilst still retaining some of the very strong links with their homeland and its traditions.
Nella's family is a large one, not well off, though working hard, and achieving integration and acceptance, and the portrayal of her sisters is very well described, almost in a Laurie Lee fashion that endeared me to the story, and made me want to read more. Her descriptive writing is very good, though not really literature in a classic sense. What she does do is something that many fiction writers fail to, in that she pulls readers into wanting more, not being able to put the book down, or reaching a stage in the story where you think you can stop for the night, only to be pulled back into interesting reading. I was enthralled by the story, and interested in the tragedies, and the jubilation of successes that lay a backdrop to a story of first love.
The way in which Nella sees boys is interesting too, as I felt akin to her thoughts, and in many ways, being brought up in a large family myself, felt that her accuracy in the way sisters interact, and parents have ideas of their own, was astoundingly real. When Nella meets Renato Lanzara, her life changes beyond belief, and the scenarios that lead up to the declaration of love for each other are almost like a waiting game. You know it is going to happen, but you don't know how or when.
The writing is optimistic, filled with vitality and events which shape the lives of the Castelluca family, and there was something very real in the writing of the story, about the kind of doubts one has growing up, both for relationships, religious belief and how a child matures into a woman, though for Nella, circumstance makes her grow up much faster than her younger sisters, and the story is indeed a well woven one.
I don't want to give much away about the story, though I would say that amongst the romantic writers, the style of Trigiani stands out as one of the best of the bunch, and doesn't really need to be classical, historically correct writing for the story to work. It does, and is superb value for money. I shall probably never read the book again, but I have ordered other books of hers because I feel that her writing merits it.
Would I buy it or borrow it ? Well, at the second hand prices on Amazon, I would buy it. I think that those that find this writer as enchanting as I did, this will probably tempt you to become a collector, and I hope that her other books live up to the standard of this one.
Price New : 5.59 GBP
Price Second Hand : 0.01 penny.
Story creation : 9/10
Characterisations : 10/10
Written style : 8/10
Ease of read : 10/10 a super book that doesn't take too much concentration, yet deals with situations delicately and sensitively.
Though I am harsh with my ratings on any book, so this didn't fare badly.
Paperback: 272 pages
Publisher: Pocket Books (4 April 2005)
Ambitious, determined and passionate, Nella Castelluca dreams of achieving more than her humble roots allow - an education, and a good job. She lives on her family's farm on the outskirts of Roseto - a town of old world tradition whose annual centrepiece revolves around the Queen of the Big Time beauty pageant. When Nella meets the handsome, worldly, irresistible Renato Lanzara, she believes she has found the soulmate with whom to share her life journey, until an unexpected turn of events leaves her and her fellow townsfolk shaken and shocked.