Monday, May 12, 2014

The Supreme Macaroni Company

Author:  Adriana Trigiani
Genre:  Fiction

Three Stars

For over a hundred years, the Angelini shoe company in Greenwich Village has relied on the leather produced by Vechiarelli & Son in Tuscany.  This ancient business partnership provides the twist of fate for Valentine Roncalli, the schoolteacher turned shoemaker, to fall in love with Gianluca Vechiarelli, a tanner with a complex past...and a secret.

But after the wedding celebrations are over, Valentine wakes up to the hard reality of juggling the demands of a new business and the needs of her new family.  Confronted with painful choices, Valentine remembers the wise words that inspired her in the early days of her beloved Angelini Shoe Company: "A person who can build a pair of shoes can do just about anything."  Now the proud, passionate Valentine is going to fight for everything she wants and savor all she deserves-the bitter and the sweet of life itself.

Romantic and poignant, told with humor and warmth, and bursting with a cast of endearing characters, The Supreme Macaroni Company is a sumptuous feast of delights: an unforgettable narrative about family, work, romance, and the unexpected turns of life and fate.


Valentine has inherited the shoe company that her grandfather and grandmother started.  She makes custom shoes, and takes pride in her work.  She employs a cutter, Gabriel, who is also her roommate, and her brother Alfred handles the financial end of the business.  She buys her leather from Italy, and it is because of this she has met Gianluca, a tanner and part owner of the company which provides the leathers.  Gianluca is older than her and divorced, and he has asked her to marry him.

This is where I felt the book began with problems.  She is very concerned with the fact that he is older than her;  when people note he's "twenty years older," she practically screams "eighteen!" as if she has to defend herself.  She even lies about the age difference to an old boyfriend, which I didn't understand.  If you're not concerned with the age difference, why lie?  This was only the beginning.

While I truly enjoyed Gianluca - he seemed to have real love for Valentine, and wanted her to be happy, no matter what it took, even if it meant giving up residing in Tuscany, his home - she didn't appear to have the same concern for him.  Everything she did had to be "her way or the highway," even when she promised him she would discuss things with him first.  She appeared to be selfish and self-serving, putting Gianluca on the back burner for her career and what she wanted out of life.  This doesn't seem to be a very good recipe for marriage; nor even one for a partnership.  She believed that marriage wouldn't change anything, and at one point I felt that she was only concerned with the fact that she was "gaining a tanner."  I found myself wondering if they had merely been business partners how long the professional relationship would last.  He tolerated an awful lot from her, and it was as if she knew what he was giving up, but her wants were more important than his (marriage is a partnership, not a plan.  You need to have consideration and respect for each other; and if it's not good for one, it won't be good for the other).

I'm not saying this is a bad book, or not to read it.  It is written very well, and there were moments that brought tears to my eyes, which is why I gave it three stars instead of two.  There are some very descriptive scenes of Italy and the surrounding countryside; and you understand why her rooftop garden in New York means a lot to her.  Yet while she remains 'a fixer' in her own family (taking care of problems so they don't escalate), I didn't get the feeling that she was willing to take care of those between her and Gianluca.  She acted as if there were no problems at all.  When this was pointed out several times by Gabriel, I felt she listened, but didn't act on anything.

Plus, the cover of the book is extremely misleading.  Point: I have never read any of Ms. Trigiani's works before, so I didn't know what Valentine was supposed to look like.  It wasn't until almost halfway through the book that she was described as having "black hair," yet the cover most definitely shows a BLONDE!  By the time you're halfway through, you've already decided in your mind's eye what these people look like, and if they're described differently, then that's not good.  Why would you put a blonde on the cover if the lead character has dark hair?  (Yes, I know they're Italian-American, but there could be blondes, and if not, anyone hear of dye?)  Who's the woman on the cover?  It's obviously Not Valentine.  Didn't the author look at the cover first?

In all, I was a little disappointed that Valentine seemed to do whatever she wanted without expecting any consequences (and for someone who's supposed to be an adult in their thirties running a business, that's a little unbelievable).  Still, as I said, the writing is good and there are a few good moments; but I think you'll come away believing as I did that Valentine didn't deserve Gianluca, and really needed to grow up and take a look at what life really is or she will end up just like her Aunt Feen.

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review, but in no way did it influence the same.

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