I found myself reading several reviews of Very Valentine before I actually went out and bought it. And then after I bought the book, it sat on my bookshelf for a long time before I actually started reading it. I’m not sure why I waited so long to get started on this book. Everything about the book speaks to characteristics that I enjoy in a good book: strong women, humor, family, romance, Manhattan, and shoes! This book is the beginning of a trilogy and one that I’m excited to read to its conclusion. I went out to buy the second installment, Brava, Valentine, promptly after finishing Very Valentine.
So if you couldn’t tell, my overall verdict on this book is that I really enjoyed it. Trigiani captures so much in this one book so it is a bit difficult for me to distill everything I enjoyed about the book into one review, but here I go:
The major conflict in the book revolves around the Angelini Shoe Company which has been making vintage wedding shoes since 1903. The rich descriptions of these shoes were phenomenal and made me wish that I could either make shoes like the ones in the book or find a shoe store that still created such fine works of art. Unfortunately, it is so difficult for small family owned businesses to survive. And this is what drives Valentine Roncalli. Despite the fact that the shoe company is experiencing some major financial difficulties, she does not want to let go. She is determined to apprentice her grandmother and become the savior of the family business that was founded in 1903. And can you blame her for wanting to save her family’s legacy? From the beginning, I had to root for Valentine for wanting to save something that so many people would overlook. I understand that yearning to want to be connected to something that has this incredibly intimate connection to the bare, unadulterated history of an art form that is essentially disappearing.
Because she is thirty-three years old and unmarried, another major part of the story revolves around her budding romance with Roman Falconi who happens to be a chef. Although he is described as being tall, dark, and handsome, I didn’t swoon for Roman. I can understand why Valentine was drawn to him, but I never saw myself necessarily rooting for the success of their relationship. The introduction of his character did make for some very delicious descriptions of food which I adored. While reading about Valentine and Roman, I found myself deeply sympathizing with the difficulties Valentine faced as she tried to navigate her way into a relationship with a man who worked just as hard (and as much) as she did. Relationships are always about some sort of compromise. Unfortunately, no one ever really wants to compromise. And when two artists in different fields are trying to navigate their ways into each other’s lives, things get tricky. Even more, I feel that many women put themselves in positions to make the sacrifices because of pressures to get married young so that they have time to get that family started. And trust me, in my minor feminist rant here, I’m not bashing the institution of family, I’m just lamenting the fact that I have seen so many women forced to make the majority of the compromises — frequently compromising careers and hobbies that they absolutely love — for the sake of a relationship.
The book takes a bit of a twist when Valentine is presented with a design challenge that takes her to Italy with her grandmother. This is the part of the book that truly captivated me. I don’t know if any of you know this about me, but I’m half Italian. I’ve dreamed for a long time now to go and visit Italy. My grandmother who passed away six years ago essentially created a mini Italy for me in her Los Angeles home. She insisted on doing pretty much everything the old school way. Her existence revolved around family and food. She grew a lot of her own produce and would create some of the most amazingly simple culinary masterpieces. She taught me and my mother almost everything that we know about food. But even more than that she taught me the power of using food to communicate the way you care about others. Valentine’s trip to Italy had me thinking a lot about my grandmother and my dreams to visit the homeland.
I find that beyond the adventure, the glorious descriptions of shoes, fashion ,and food, the romance, the family drama, and the amazing characters that fill this book is that same inspiring Italian way of using the simple to communicate the complex.
So yes, I highly recommend this book and look forward to when I can review the next installment in the series.
© 2013, Jennifer Lesnick. All rights reserved.