Title: The Shoemaker’s Wife
Author: Adriana Trigiani
Narrators: Adriana Trigiani and Annabella Sciorra
Length of Audiobook: 18 hours, 19 minutes
Genre: Historical Fiction
“The majestic and haunting beauty of the Italian Alps is the setting of the first meeting of Enza, a practical beauty, and Ciro, a strapping mountain boy, who meet as teenagers, despite growing up in villages just a few miles apart. At the turn of the last century, when Ciro catches the local priest in a scandal, he is banished from his village and sent to hide in America as an apprentice to a shoemaker in Little Italy. Without explanation, he leaves a bereft Enza behind. Soon, Enza’s family faces disaster and she, too, is forced to go to America with her father to secure their future.
Unbeknownst to one another, they both build fledgling lives in America, Ciro masters shoemaking and Enza takes a factory job in Hoboken until fate intervenes and reunites them. But it is too late: Ciro has volunteered to serve in World War I and Enza, determined to forge a life without him, begins her impressive career as a seamstress at the Metropolitan Opera House that will sweep her into the glamorous salons of Manhattan and into the life of the international singing sensation, Enrico Caruso.
From the stately mansions of Carnegie Hill, to the cobblestone streets of Little Italy, over the perilous cliffs of northern Italy, to the white-capped lakes of northern Minnesota, these star-crossed lovers meet and separate, until, finally, the power of their love changes both of their lives forever.”
Thoughts: Adriana Trigiani’s latest, The Shoemaker’s Wife, is a sweeping saga that takes readers from the Italian Alps to New York City to the bracing weather of the Minnesota iron range at the beginnings of the twentieth century. Twenty years in the making, it is the fictionalized story of her own grandparents’ love story. The story follows the lives of Enza Ravanelli and Ciro Lazari, two children born in the Italian Alps and each of whom find their way to America. While there, they find success through hard work and each other through patience and a deep and poignant love. It sounds simple, but the ensuing story is just gorgeous in its scope.
A typical immigration story, both Enza and Ciro’s struggles put future generations to shame. Their childhood poverty, their amazing work ethic, and their willingness to sacrifice everything for family are certain characteristics that today’s generations simply cannot fathom. Working twelve hours days for minimal wages, going hungry to send money in support of family members – these are things today’s children have been taught not to accept. While this is not necessarily a bad thing, The Shoemaker’s Wife is a wonderful reminder of the steps the nation had to take to bring us to this point. It is the hard work and dedication of immigrants such as Enza and Ciro that provided future generations with the creature comforts and decent work environments that exist today. Yet, Ms. Trigiani does not preach her point. She lets Enza’s and Ciro’s actions speak for themselves, and readers will find themselves sitting up straighter and working harder out of deference to two such devoted characters.
Enza and Ciro are two characters that leap from the page. They are so well-written and realistic, there is no difficulty imagining them walking the streets of New York or picnicking on the banks of Minnesota lake. Ciro’s exuberance for life is intoxicating. He brings a smile to readers’ faces through his genuine good nature and enthusiasm, while his fears and worries become the readers’ own. Conversely, Enza’s practical nature and refined gentleness help readers strive to become better people. Her complete devotion to her family and the satisfaction she feels in making beautiful things and making others happy are inspiring. Their devotion to one another is simply beautiful. A reader feels privileged to be included in such a touching story about love and sacrifice.
For the audiobook , Ms. Trigiani freely admits to being actively involved its production. Since The Shoemaker’s Wife was a novel twenty years in the making, the audiobook experience had to be perfect and authentic to the story, hence the two narrators. Annabella Sciorra is the perfect choice for young Enza and Ciro. There is an innocence to her performance that mirrors their own relative inexperience in the world at large. When Ms. Trigiani takes over the narration, the listener knows that the story is about take a serious turn. Enza’s and Ciro’s world gets more complicated and more adult, and Ms. Trigiani’s voice reflects the wisdom that comes with experience. While Ms. Sciorra’s narration is all careful piety and youth, Ms. Trigiani’s narration embodies the family ideal. Of the two, Ms. Sciorra’s voice is the more pleasing to the ear, but one can understand and overlook the scratchiness of Ms. Trigiani’s voice and less-polished narration when one remembers how near and dear this story is to her.
Adriana Trigiani has not only done it again, she has far surpassed anything she has previously written. She not only captures the excitement and constant changes which define the new century, she infuses each location with reverence due to careful attention to detail and the ensuing absolutely breathtaking descriptions. The effort and care she took to recreate the stories told to her by family members shines from every page. Enza and Ciro embody the changing times with their endless energy, determination, and willingness to work. Their devotion to one another will bring readers to tears. The Shoemaker’s Wife is the type of novel which immerses readers so completely into its world that all other cares, worries, chores, and other demands of life fade to nonexistence. Like a good Italian meal, it demands to be savored and enjoyed slowly, allowing readers to absorb each delicious description and scene, and thoroughly enjoy it they will.
Acknowledgments: Thank you to Beth Harper and Harper Audio for my review copy!
I’m a little late to the game, but I just wanted to share that I won’t listen to an Adriana Trigiani audio book UNLESS she is the reader! “The Shoemaker’s Wife” was fantastic!
I’m glad you were able to enjoy it!
The story was lovely and it made me look into my own grandparents’ stories. They also came as Italian immigrants, both from the north and central Italy, in the early 1900s. But I must agree that the author should leave narrating to actors. I listen to a lot of audio books on my long drive to work and I often stop listening to a story if the reader’s voice is annoying or jarring. The abrupt change was not only jarring and regionally accented but the Italian words are mispronounced and even Ciro was pronounced “Siro” once. It is a craft that is much more difficult than it appears. I understand that it has been re-recorded and I hope that future listeners will be able to enjoy Adriana Trigiani’s beautifully written story through to the end.
They re-recorded this? I would DEFINITELY listen to it again with the right narrator. And I would absolutely recommend it to everyone because it is such a great story.
I have 2 discs left to finishing the story, but it’s all I can do to make it through the end of the due to the switch in narrators. I kept thinking I would get used to Trigiani’s voice, but frankly it’s getting harder and harder for me to listen to her. Her voice is abrasive and her lisp is driving me nuts! I absolutely loved the first half of the book and thought Sciorra was fabulous. My personal opinion is that Trigiani should stick with what she does best and that is writing. I hope for her sake she never tries to narrate another one of her novels.
Trigiani is not the best narrator, and listening to it after the fabulous Sciorra is a shock to the ears. The story itself though is just gorgeous. Hang in there!
Jackie – You are definitely not alone. It took me a very long time to get used to Ms. Trigiani's narration. I can't help but feel that this was one book I should have read in print rather than listened to via audio. Still, the story is absolutely gorgeous. I hope you can get to the point where you enjoy the story again.
I have been listening to this audio book and was so upset by the change in narrators that I searched online and found this blog. I so agree with all of the comments above. I just couldn't understand why this was done. I wondered, "Did the original narrator quit? Did she die?" Now, I see why. During the first half of the book, the narrator was "invisible" to me as I was fully engrossed in the story. Now, in the second half, I am so distracted by the inflection of the narrator, that I have to get past that to actually enjoy the story.
Well-said. I’m still trying to get used to the second half. 🙁
Good luck! It’s a rough second half but such a beautiful story.
It does take some getting used to, but you can get used to Ms. Trigiani's narration. It still doesn't compare to Ms. Sciorri's though. I'll be curious how you continue with the book. It truly is a beautiful story.
I am to the point of the change in narrators and it is so jarring! I was searching for information on the narration and found your blog.
Ms Sciorri's voice is so lyrical. I'm not sure if I'll continue with the audio or borrow the book from a friend…
I can easily see where Ms. Trigiani refused to sell the audiobook rights unless she was named as one of the narrators. Did you listen to the interview at the end of the audiobook? In it, one of the producers from HarperAudio mentions how involved she was from the very beginning. I can see where they might not have had a choice in the matter. I do agree that they needed to be more clear on who the narrators were. It is an excellent example of how an author is not always the best narrator.
Exactly. I really struggled and contemplated quitting the audio when the narrator switch occurred. In the end, the story won out and I continued. Lesson learned.
I suspect it was a decison by the author, not by Harper Audio, for Ms. Trigiani to read the 2nd half of The Shoemaker's Wife herself. I was upset because the audiobook cover listed only the professional narrator (Ms. Sciorra) as "performed by." It I had known the author was going to read half of the book, I would not have bought the audio version. In my experience, authors — regrdless of how good they are as WRITERS — make very poor narrators. The result is that audibooks which could have been wonderful are instead very poor listening experiences.
I think Ms. Trigiana did a major dis-service to the audio version of her novel (Shoemaker's Wife) by deciding to switch narrators and read the 2nd part of it herself. I was enjoying and appreciating the depth of the novel tremendously, when suddenly the excellent professional narrator was replaced by Ms. Trigiana. It nearly ruined the the book for me. I would not recommend the audio version to anyone. Read the hard copy of this one.
It really is a special story, and you can tell she has that personal connection with her characters. I honestly do not know if Harper Audio had a choice with narrators, since she was REALLY involved in the audio's production. How do you say no to the author?
I've wanted to know her Grandparents story since I read her other books. I'll definitely go with a print copy though. Change of narrator's??? WTH Harper?
The cover is just gorgeous!
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Leslie, I completely agree. I wanted to be able to gush about this audiobook but just can't because of the change in narrators. I think print is the best option for this beautiful story.
Laurie – It really is a shame that Harper Audio chose to have the two narrators, but from what I was able to discern from the interview, I don't think they had a choice. I agree that had Ms. Trigiani narrated the entire story, it would have had an entirely different feel to the story and may not have been so disruptive.
Jen – I think that's probably the wise choice. Isabella Sciorra though was an amazing narrator, and it did help to hear the pronunciations of certain Italian words and phrases.
I agree that the change in narrators was disconcerting. I was thoroughly enjoying Ms. Sciorra's narration–it was beautiful. Then, around disk 8 or 9, a change in voice. Now that I've read this blog I understand why. However, at the time, it didn't seem to make sense. There really wasn't any major passage of time that would warrant a different narrator. I thought, maybe, the story would now be told through Ciro's eyes since the voice was slightly deeper. But it was still the same storyline. Ms. Trigiani writes wonderful stories and I have read/listened to several. And it's understandable that she would want to narrate a story that is so personal to her. However, her narration took away from the mood/tone that was set by the original narrator. Her "Laura voice" was particularly jarring. Perhaps, Harper Audio should have had her narrate the entire story rather than go from an "A" voice to a "B" voice. Having said that, it's still a wonderful, classic Trigiani story and worth listening to or reading.
The storyline is so unique! Sounds classic to me but it's very interesting, specially the part how they reunite again to each other. Great review and a must hear audiobook!
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I loved this story but found the switch in narrators a bit jolting. It took me an hour or so to adjust and honestly I lost the flow. While I understand the author's wanting to be involved in the production, it doesn't necessarily make for the best experience for the listener. I still highly recommend the book, but print might be a better choice.
The switch in narrators made me so angry, I can’t finish the audio book. I adore the story, but if I am to finish it, I’ll need to read it. I am disappointed.
That’s exactly how I felt, and I know we are not alone. The switch in narrators is just so abrupt and jarring. The story is gorgeous though so I do hope you finish reading it in print. Good luck!
This sounds amazing, but with the author doing a bit of less-than-perfect narration I may stick with the print version that I have on my shelves instead of tracking down the audio.