Thursday, November 7, 2013

Not Impressed

{August 2012}
I just finished reading The Shoemaker's Wife by Adriana Trigani. I was completely unimpressed. I kept thinking, as I read, that I would mention this unimpressed state as my FB status, but as I read, my reasons for not liking it got longer and longer.

Let's start with the cover. A woman in a luxuirous dress, elaborately posed, in a fancy setting. This made me think "the shoemaker's wife" was glamorous and rose above her station (or something). But the cover has nothing to do with what happens in the book. I question if the fashion in the illustration is timely for the years covered by the book. It sort of could have to do with Enza's time at the Met, but that's kind of a stretch for me.

The book is not about a shoemaker's wife. It's about a boy and girl, a little about their childhoods, their immigration to America, their eventual marriage. But being "a shoemaker's wife" never defines Enza as she points out several times, that she wanted to keep her identity and do her own thing.

The story sort of switches from Enza's story to Ciro's story but then randomly we'll be given omniscient access to a minor character's mind. For example, the girl Ciro sees kissing the priest. All of a sudden we know her thoughts of disgust toward Ciro. It really doesn't add to the story (it does make us more sympathetic to Ciro to have another rejection), because the fallout of his observing the kiss doesn't depend on the girl's opinons.

We occasionally get brief and unrepeated glimpses into other character's thoughts and motivations but it is inconsistent, even switching in the middle of a paragraph on a few occasions. Stick to Enza and Ciro, or spread out the omniscience a little more evenly.

The priest who kisses the girl has a big vendetta against Ciro and sends him away. It seems to be very personal, in that the brothers are split up and Ciro is supposed to go to the workhouse.  And . . . then he never appears again. Ciro is determined to make a life for himself and go back and prove that the priest was wrong or made a mistake, but Ciro seems to forget that's the plan. I don't think that that was the crisis moment that caused Ciro to lose his faith since he wasn't particularly religious before although it did disillusion him further. At the end, when he goes back to the mountain, he finds out the priest who "ruined" his life has moved on by his "cunning" or whatever. I find no closure or satisfaction in that, because when Ciro first leaves the thoughts of returning consume him. He never gets to show to the priest how what the priest meant to ruin his life is what made his life.

When Enza gets married and is now an American citizen, it's written as if it's a big deal but before that it never comes up as a hope or dream of hers. Neither one of them expresses interest in being American citizens, it's all "go back to the mountain" and then whoosh, let's celebrate that we're citizens. I think that theme could have been developed more, wanting or not wanting American citizenship.

Along with that, the issue that Enza gets seasickness so badly she can never go home to the mountain is given little development. The only reason she and her father come to America is to go home, and to know from the first day that that will never happen . . . that's a big deal. It's mentioned a few times but it seems the thing that crushes the dream of her life could be discussed more. And why not take a shorter boat? Like to Southampton or somewhere? Or is that the same amount of time? For how much they both express the desire to only stay in America until they can go home to Italy, they seem to forget that and just mumble along making money.

And then

{November 2013}
 . . . not sure where else I was going with my deconstruction of that book but I have to admit I didn't actually finish it. They guy dies, there's a girl they adopt or something, she marries someone. Something like that (spoilers, sorry).

I'd forgotten my dislike of this book was so thorough. I think because it came with such high praise from others that I expected more from it & was excessively critical of things I might otherwise have overlooked.

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