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Very Valentine: A Novel
by Adriana Trigiani

Published: 2009-10-06
Kindle Edition : 578 pages
4 members reading this now
23 clubs reading this now
9 members have read this book
Recommended to book clubs by 5 of 6 members

“Sex and the City meets Moonstruck….Sly, sensual, and dripping in style.”
—People

 

Poignant, funny, warm, and red hot, Very Valentine is a wonderful treat for Adriana Trigiani fans—a “delightful” (Boston Globe), “romance-soaked novel” (Marie Claire) from much adored ...

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Introduction

Sex and the City meets Moonstruck….Sly, sensual, and dripping in style.”
People

 

Poignant, funny, warm, and red hot, Very Valentine is a wonderful treat for Adriana Trigiani fans—a “delightful” (Boston Globe), “romance-soaked novel” (Marie Claire) from much adored playwright, screenwriter, documentary filmmaker, and New York Times bestselling author of Lucia, Lucia; Rococo; and Big Stone Gap. The adventures of an extraordinary and unforgettable woman as she attempts to rescue her family’s struggling shoe business and find love at the same time, Very Valentine sweeps the reader from the streets of Manhattan to the picturesque hills of la bella Italia. Already a national bestseller, here is a valentine from the incomparable Trigiani that you can take into your heart.

Editorial Review

Book Description

Meet the Roncalli and Angelini families, a vibrant cast of colorful characters who navigate tricky family dynamics with hilarity and brio, from magical Manhattan to the picturesque hills of bella Italia. Very Valentine is the first novel in a trilogy and is sure to be the new favorite of Trigiani's millions of fans around the world.

In this luscious, contemporary family saga, the Angelini Shoe Company, makers of exquisite wedding shoes since 1903, is one of the last family-owned businesses in Greenwich Village. The company is on the verge of financial collapse. It falls to thirty-three-year-old Valentine Roncalli, the talented and determined apprentice to her grandmother, the master artisan Teodora Angelini, to bring the family's old-world craftsmanship into the twenty-first century and save the company from ruin.

While juggling a budding romance with dashing chef Roman Falconi, her duty to her family, and a design challenge presented by a prestigious department store, Valentine returns to Italy with her grandmother to learn new techniques and seek one-of-a-kind materials for building a pair of glorious shoes to beat their rivals. There, in Tuscany, Naples, and on the Isle of Capri, a family secret is revealed as Valentine discovers her artistic voice and much more, turning her life and the family business upside down in ways she never expected. Very Valentine is a sumptuous treat, a journey of dreams fulfilled, a celebration of love and loss filled with Trigiani's trademark heart and humor.

A Note from Adriana Trigiani

The story of this novel began with a lady on a roof. Every morning, I head over to the Hudson River Park for fresh air and a run (just found out the exhaust fumes of the West Side Highway could kill me more quickly than lack of exercise, go figure), and I became obsessed with a woman living on one of the last small buildings facing the river amidst the “progress” of glamorous high-rises and hotels. I’d wonder, “Why does she stay?” Most summer mornings she was in her housecoat tending to tomato plants that line the fence of her rooftop. I never waved or rang her bell, but I connected to her. She reminded me of my grandmothers, who had their own gardens, and for most of their widowed lives, lived alone. I began to look for the woman, and when I saw her, I felt relieved, as though life wasn’t really racing by, and that the past was somehow, in the form of this lady, still alive.

This lady, whose name I do not know and whom I have never met, brought me to the story of Carlo Bonicelli, my grandfather, a shoemaker. I keep a photograph of him on my desk to remind me of the artisans that came before me. (It’s a crowded desktop; those of you who read Lucia, Lucia know about the seamstresses in my family!)

My grandfather Carlo died when he was thirty-nine years old. My grandmother told me that while he repaired shoes and built them, his dream was to design them. He did not live long enough to see his dream materialize. With my grandmother gone, I asked my mother about him, about his work. This wasn’t easy, as my mom cries whenever she talks about her father. As those of you dutiful children out there know, when our mothers cry, it’s like somebody’s plunging a knife into our chests. But this time, I asked her not to cry, and she told me the story of the Bonicelli shoes. Then I went to Italy with my dear pal Gina Casella, (with our five-year-old daughters in tow) to learn how to make shoes. I met a few of the great artisans, who became the inspiration for the shoemakers in this novel.

The trip changed my creative life, but it also changed the substance and course of this story. I come from people who survived by the labor of their own hands in a glorious country of their choice (our United States). I always knew this, but now I understand it. I only live as an artist because they gave me their stories, and because you read them. So, Dear Reader (love it--so Jane Austen!), Very Valentine is for you. It’s about all of us: our family dynamics, our dreams, our luck or lack of it in matters of the heart, and how we negotiate going forward, in a world that’s moving so fast, even a stroll is now a blur. This is the first of three books about Valentine Roncalli and her family of shoemakers. When I wrote it, I wanted to bring you old world craftsmanship, the magical setting of Greenwich Village, in a contemporary family saga told in vivid detail. I hope you enjoy it.

Excerpt

No Excerpt Currently Available

Discussion Questions

From the publisher:

1. Valentine Roncalli begins her tale with the words, "I am not the pretty sister. I'm not the smart sister either. I am the funny one." How does her outlook color her actions? What do you think of Valentine? Do you agree with her assessment or do you think she might be selling herself short?

2. One of the major themes of Very Valentine is family. Describe the Roncalli family. How does their bond enrich Valentine's life? How might it affect her adversely, both in her romantic and professional endeavors? Offer some examples from the novel.

3. What defines family for the Roncallis? How would you fit into Valentine's family? What defines family for you? What is your family life like now and what were your experiences growing up?

4. Compare Valentine with her mother, Michelina ("Mike"), and her grandmother, Teodora. What elements of her personality does Valentine get from both women? Does she take after one more than the other?

5. Valentine's sister-in-law, Pam, has a difficult time fitting into the Roncalli family. How much of this is the result of her own actions? Are the Roncalli sisters responsible as well?

6. Tradition is another them of Very Valentine. Her sister Tess calls Valentine traditional, yet Valentine disagrees. "I guess I appear to be one of my tribe, but the truth is, whenever I have the opportunity to walk the hard line of tradition, I balk." Is Tess right, does Valentine represent tradition? How does she balk at it, as she claims? Which sister has the more realistic view?

7. Valentine ponders the question: "How do we survive in a contemporary world without losing everything my great-grandfather built?" Is there a role for tradition and traditional craftsmen and artisans in our technologically dependent modern world?

8. What does tradition mean for your life? Are there any you particularly cherish that have been handed down through past generations? How do you keep traditions alive? How can you start new ones?

9. Romantic love and the yearning for it infuse the novel. Valentine is a single woman in a world seemingly defined by marriage. Can a woman be fulfilled and yet remain single? Can she be happy without a man?

10. Describe Valentine's love interests, Roman and Gianluca. What does each man provide that the other doesn't? Did you prefer one to the other? Do you think she could be happy with either of them—or someone like either of them?

11. When Roman tells her that he will be few days late meeting her in Capri, what do you think about her reaction to his news? What about when he cancels on her?

12. What role did the trip to Capri play in Valentine and Roman's relationship?

13. The Roncalli family offers numerous insights, both profound and humorous for Valentine. Her mother tells, "You see, that's when you know for sure somebody loves you. They figure out what you need and they give it to you—without you asking." What do you think of this view of love?

14. Mike also advises her daughter, "I believe in setting goals that one can achieve. Low expectations make for a happy life." Can not expecting much make you happy? How? What would happen to Valentine if she followed this advice?

15. When talking to her father, Valentine discovers that he has a spiritual philosophy: "What about me is eternal?" How would you answer this question? Besides children, what might you leave to future generations?

16. Throughout the novel, Valentine works hard to save the Angelini Shoe Company. If she is successful, she gains stability. What do you think will happen if she fails?

17. Valentine describes the art of making shoes: "My grandmother has taught me that the palette for leather and suede is limitless, like musical notes." What do our shoes say about ourselves? How is Valentine's passion, making shoes, a metaphor for her life?

18. In Adriana Trigiani's vivid prose, New York City and Italy are like "characters" in the book. Describe Valentine's New York. How does "her" city compare to the New York you might know of—or have imagined? What is Italy like through her eyes? What does each place offer Valentine?

19. What does Valentine learn about herself in Italy? How do those lessons affect her?

20. What do you think of Teodora's news? Why do you think she kept her relationship a secret all those years?

21. At the end of the novel, Valentine turns away from both Roman and Gianluca. "In this moment, I choose art." Is this the right choice for her? What might it mean for her and for the Angelini Shoe Company? Does she have to choose love and career?

23. What did you learn from Valentine's experiences? What advice would you give her about her love life and her career?

Suggested by Members

Have you ever be in love
Are you a shoe nut
What did you think about the ending. Were you disappointed
by Alieda (see profile) 08/12/19

Notes From the Author to the Bookclub

No notes at this time.

Book Club Recommendations

Fashion
by Alieda (see profile) 08/12/19
I would get everyone to wear their best shoes or at least brought then , so you can talk about them.
If your club serves food, sweet valentine cookies would be nice, but even better, risotto or any other Italian dish described at length in this novel!
by nanyannie (see profile) 12/19/09

Member Reviews

Overall rating:
 
 
by angied21 (see profile) 01/15/20

 
  "Very Valentine: "by Alieda (see profile) 08/12/19

This novel is a fun romantic read would lead to some fun discussion love , and fashion

 
  "Very Valentine"by kilgroep (see profile) 09/22/13

Book Club highly recommended this novel. Club
discussed the making of shoes, its complicated
method. All the steps that go into making a high
end shoe. Written around a family business.

 
  "Very Valentine"by Franh (see profile) 04/17/11

I found the story began well enough, but as it continued it seemed to have no where to go. I felt the author was getting her ideas as she was writing and didn't have a strong plot line. I did find the... (read more)

 
  "Very Valentine"by Christine57 (see profile) 02/11/11

I did enjoy this book. It was interesting learning about shoe making and fashion. However, a friend of mine, who is 1st generation Italian said that the family was not realistic of Italians and had been... (read more)

 
  "Very Valentine"by tnsarge (see profile) 11/11/10

 
  "Very Valentine"by CaroleMcwilson (see profile) 04/07/10

All agreed that there was way too much detail in many areas of the book -- EX: thoughts swirling through her head as she anticipated spending her first night with Roman were waaaaay too much! "Valentine"... (read more)

 
  "Very Valentine:A Novel"by dchase21 (see profile) 12/24/09

Trigiana is fun to read. You will enjoy her sensual look at New York and Italy. Her love of these places is evident in her writing. You will never look at a pair of shoes again without thinking of... (read more)

 
  "Very Valentine"by nanyannie (see profile) 12/19/09

I really loved this book and am eager to read the second one in what is to be a trilogy. It is quick and fun reading and anyone who loves shoes will love this novel. The descriptions of the Greenwich... (read more)

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