The backstory: Because I'm spending more time driving than taking the bus semester, I decided to browse the audio book cds at my library and decided to start with Very Valentine. I also enjoyed the other Adriana Trigiani book I read, Big Stone Gap (my review).
The basics: Very Valentine is the story of Valentine Roncalli, a young woman in her early thirties who lives with her grandmother and helps her grandmother run the Angelini Shoe Company, which makes custom wedding shoes.
My thoughts: Going into this novel, I wasn't sure what to expect. I was surprised how much I enjoyed Big Stones Gap mostly because of how unexpectedly funny it was. I knew next to nothing going into this book, and I wasn't even sure if it was set in contemporary New York City (it is.) While Very Valentine wasn't funny like Big Stone Gap was, it did have good character development and a mostly interesting storyline.
There were times the prose was overly descriptive, but as an infrequent audio book listener, it's difficult to know it that was a by-product of listening to the book or the narrative itself. Although my commute is short enough that it took me a month to listen to these twelve cds, I never had a problem picking up where the story left off, and much of that credit goes to the narrator, Cassandra Campbell. She had unique voices for each character, which is impressive with the large supporting cast of characters you'd expect in an Italian family story. Campbell helped each character have more dimension and kept me from confusing them, even when I listened in short spurts. At times, I even forgot it was one person reading. Even the male characters seemed authentic. (Side note: I am often one who struggles with characters not looking as I think they should in movies, but with this novel, I didn't form clear pictures; I formed clear sounds. I fear I couldn't see a film version of this book and hear different voices come out of their mouths. Is this normal with audio books?)
I mostly enjoyed Valentine, even though she and I have some differing views about male-female relationships. She may not be someone I would be friends with in real life, but she was an interesting and well-developed character. The storyline was also a bit uneven from time to time. I was never bored, but there were times I wasn't eager to see what happened next. Conversely, there were times I ran an extra errand to hear what would happen next. As an infrequent audio book listener, it's hard for me to know if the ups and downs were systemic of the book itself or my short spurts of listening. Fun trivia: Although I haven't read it yet I enjoyed hearing the film version of Lucia, Lucia mentioned in the book.
The verdict: I wasn't blown away by Very Valentine, but I enjoyed it, and I'm glad I experience it on audio. I've heard Brava, Valentine, the sequel, is even better, and I plan to listen to that on audio as well because it's also performed by Cassandra Campbell. Recommended for fans of women's fiction and tales of Italian-American families.
Rating:3.75 stars (out of 5)
Length: 416 pages (or 14 hours 44 minutes on audio)
Publication date:January 1, 2010 (paperback)
Source: unabridged audio cds courtesy of my local public library
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