Brava Valentine (Trigiani)

Brava, Valentine  (Valentine Trilogy, 2)
Adriana Trigiani, 2010
HarperCollins
352 pp.
ISBN-13: 9780061257087



Summary
Adriana Trigiani's bestselling novels are beloved by millions of readers around the world. From the Big Stone Gap series to Lucia, Lucia, each is a sumptuous treat as Trigiani tells hilarious and romantic stories that we want to return to again and again. Very Valentine, an instant New York Times bestseller, introduced the contemporary family saga of the Roncalli and Angelini families, artisans of handcrafted wedding shoes in Greenwich Village since 1903.

As Brava, Valentine begins, snow falls like glitter over Tuscany at the wedding of her grandmother, Teodora, and longtime love, Dominic. Valentine's dreams are dashed when Gram announces that Alfred, "the prince," Valentine's only brother and nemesis, has been named her partner at Angelini Shoes. Devastated, Valentine falls into the arms of Gianluca, a sexy Tuscan tanner who made his romantic intentions known on the Isle of Capri. Despite their passion for one another and Gianluca's heartfelt letters, a long-distance relationship seems impossible.

As Valentine turns away from romance and devotes herself to her work, mentor and pattern cutter June Lawton guides her through her power struggle with Alfred, while best friend and confidante Gabriel Biondi moves into 166 Perry Street, transforming her home and point of view. Savvy financier Bret Fitzpatrick, Valentine's first love and former fiancée who still carries a torch for her, encourages Valentine to exploit her full potential as a designer and a business woman with a plan that will bring her singular creations to the world.

A once-in-a-lifetime business opportunity takes Valentine from the winding streets of Greenwich Village to the sun-kissed cobblestones of Buenos Aires, where she finds a long-buried secret hidden deep within a family scandal. Once unearthed, the truth rocks the Roncallis and Valentine is determined to hold her family together. More so, she longs to create one of her own, but is torn between a past love that nurtured her, and a new one that promises to sustain her. Brava, Valentine, Trigiani's best novel yet, delivers a hilarious and poignant mix of colorful worlds and unforgettable characters as only she can create them. (From the publisher.)

This is the second book in the Valentine Trilogy. Very Valentine is the first book; The Supreme Macaroni Company is the third.



Author Bio
Birth—1960
Where—Big Stone Gap, Virginia, USA
Education—B.A., St. Mary’s College, Indiana, USA
Currently—lives in New York, New York


As her squadrons of fans already know, Adriana Trigiani grew up in Big Stone Gap, a coal-mining town in southwest Virginia that became the setting for her first three novels. The "Big Stone Gap" books feature Southern storytelling with a twist: a heroine of Italian descent, like Trigiani, who attended St. Mary's College of Notre Dame, like Trigiani. But the series isn't autobiographical—the narrator, Ave Maria Mulligan, is a generation older than Trigiani and, as the first book opens, has settled into small-town spinsterhood as the local pharmacist.

The author, by contrast, has lived most of her adult life in New York City. After graduating from college with a theater degree, she moved to the city and began writing and directing plays (her day jobs included cook, nanny, house cleaner and office temp). In 1988, she was tapped to write for the Cosby Show spinoff A Different World, and spent the following decade working in television and film. When she presented her friend and agent Suzanne Gluck with a screenplay about Big Stone Gap, Gluck suggested she turn it into a novel.

The result was an instant bestseller that won praise from fellow writers along with kudos from celebrities (Whoopi Goldberg is a fan). It was followed by Big Cherry Holler and Milk Glass Moon, which chronicle the further adventures of Ave Maria through marriage and motherhood. People magazine called them "Delightfully quirky... chock full of engaging, oddball characters and unexpected plot twists."

Critics sometimes reach for food imagery to describe Trigiani's books, which have been called "mouthwatering as fried chicken and biscuits" (USA Today) and "comforting as a mug of tea on a rainy Sunday" (New York Times Book Review). Food and cooking play a big role in the lives of Trigiani's heroines and their families: Lucia, Lucia, about a seamstress in Greenwich Village in the 1950s, and The Queen of the Big Time, set in an Italian-American community in Pennsylvania, both feature recipes from Trigiani's grandmothers. She and her sisters have even co-written a cookbook called, appropriately enough, Cooking With My Sisters: One Hundred Years of Family Recipes, from Bari to Big Stone Gap. It's peppered with anecdotes, photos and family history. What it doesn't have: low-carb recipes. "An Italian girl can only go so long without pasta," Trigiani quipped in an interview on GoTriCities.com.

Her heroines are also ardent readers, so it comes as no surprise that book groups love Adriana Trigiani. And she loves them right back. She's chatted with scores of them on the phone, and her Web site includes photos of women gathered together in living rooms and restaurants across the country, waving Italian flags and copies of Lucia, Lucia.

Trigiani, a disciplined writer whose schedule for writing her first novel included stints from 3 a.m. to 8 a.m. each morning, is determined not to disappoint her fans. So far, she's produced a new novel each year since the publication of Big Stone Gap. I don't take any of it for granted, not for one second, because I know how hard this is to catch with your public," she said in an interview with The Independent. "I don't look at my public as a group; I look at them like individuals, so if a reader writes and says, 'I don't like this,' or, 'This bit stinks,' I take it to heart.

Extras
From a 2004 Barnes & Noble interview:

• I appeared on the game show Kiddie Kollege on WCYB-TV in Bristol, Virginia, when I was in the third grade. I missed every question. It was humiliating.

• I have held the following jobs: office temp, ticket seller in movie theatre, cook in restaurant, nanny, and phone installer at the Super Bowl in New Orleans. In the writing world, I have been a playwright, television writer/producer, documentary writer/director, and now novelist.

• I love rhinestones, faux jewelry. I bought a pair of pearl studded clip on earrings from a blanket on the street when I first moved to New York for a dollar. They turned out to be a pair designed by Elsa Schiaparelli. Now, they are costume, but they are still Schiaps! Always shop in the street—treasures aplenty.

When asked what book most influenced her life as a writer, here is what she said:

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. When I was a girl growing up in Big Stone Gap, Virginia, I was in the middle of a large Italian family, but I related to the lonely orphan girl Jane, who with calm and focus, put one foot in front of the other to make a life for herself after the death of her parents and her terrible tenure with her mean relatives. She survived the horrors of the orphanage Lowood, losing her best friend to consumption, became a teacher and then a nanny. The love story with the complicated Rochester was interesting to me, but what moved me the most was Jane's character, in particular her sterling moral code. Here was a girl who had no reason to do the right thing, she was born poor and had no connections and yet, somehow she was instinctively good and decent. It's a story of personal triumph and the beauty of human strength. I also find the book a total page turner- and it's one of those stories that you become engrossed in, unable to put it down. Imagine the beauty of the line: "I loved and was loved." It doesn't get any better than that! (Bio and interview from Barnes & Noble.)



Book Reviews
[A] sweet second act for shoemaker and designer Valentine Roncalli. Val takes over the New York family-run shoe business with feet-of-clay older brother, Alfred.... [A] startling twist of family history finally challenges an old-fashioned, insular clan to join the modern world. But it's always the endearing, unnerving and rowdy Roncallis who steal the show.
Publishers Weekly


With her grandmother remarried and living in Italy, Valentine and her brother are now in charge of the Angelina Shoe Company. She's a strong businesswoman, but family and romantic relationships knock her off stride.... Brimming over with life, [Trigiani's] latest will be essential reading for fans of humorous, touching family fiction. —Lesa Holstine, Glendale P.L., AZ
Library Journal


Valentine is one of Adriana Trigiani’s most winsome characters (yes, she even rivals the Big Stone Gap gang).... Brava, Valentine is laugh-out-loud funny...but it’s also an unexpectedly poignant examination of the power and pull of family, faith and love.
BookPage


Lukewarm follow-up to Very Valentine (2009).... A talented designer, Valentine has big plans to expand the [family] business from couture wedding shoes to mass-produced daywear.... But Valentine is...filled with the usual angst and uncertainty about how to manage love and career.... [T]his middle installment of a planned trilogy delivers a very thin plot via an endless interior monologue by Valentine. A likable heroine doesn't compensate for a lackluster narrative.
Kirkus Reviews



Discussion Questions
1. How would you describe Valentine? What’s your favorite thing about her?

2. If you read the first novel, how have lost loves, family dramas, and professional opportunities impacted Valentine? How do they affect her over the course of this chapter in her life?

3. Do you think Valentine is like most contemporary American women?

4. What role does Valentine play in the Roncalli family? How do the Roncallis define family? How is their notion of family challenged when they learn about their relatives in Argentina?

5. What does Valentine think about Gianluca, and how does she feel about him? How does she react when she receives his handwritten letters? Over the course of the story, do her feelings for him change—or her understanding of those feelings? What does Valentine want from love?

6. Speaking of love, June tells Valentine, “The only urgent thing in life is the pursuit of love. You get that one right, and you’ve solved the mystery.” Do you agree with this? Is love the most important thing in life?

7. Compare and contrast the men in Valentine’s life, including her father, her brother Alfred, Brett, Gabriel, and Gianluca. What does each man offer her?

8. Though Valentine misses living and working with her grandmother, she has her beloved employee (and honorary Roncalli) June. How does June influence Valentine? What is your opinion of June?

9. What is the importance of scent in the book? What are Valentine’s favorite smells and the associations she has with them? Do you have a favorite smell?

10. One of the novel’s themes is trust. Why is trust difficult for Valentine? How do we learn to trust someone? What happens when that trust is shaken? Can it be rebuilt? How are these lessons demonstrated in the various marriages and relationships, from Valentine’s parents to Brett’s marriage to Mackenzie, Alfred and Pam to Valentine and Gianluca, and even Gram and Dominic?

11. Bret tells Valentine that marriage is a lot of work, but she thinks it should be the easy part. Can it be both? What is your view of marriage? Would you recommend it?

12. Valentine’s mother, Mike, built her life upon the philosophy, “One god, one man, one life.” What would Valentine’s philosophy be? Do you have a personal philosophy?

13. What happens when Val goes to Buenos Aires? How does that trip affect her professionally and personally?

14. Valentine is the “sole custodian of our family history, and not because anyone asked me to be. The truth is, no one else is interested in the contents of these dusty old boxes, nor do they want to store them. I’m the only Angelini who treasures these old documents and is inspired by them.” Why is the past important to her? Do you have a family custodian? Why don’t Americans seem to care about the past?

15. Gram’s move to Italy means Valentine must sort through the furniture, boxes, and documents she left behind. “Our history can only be told through the things she saved, and now that Gram is gone, it’s left to me to decide worth saving.” How does she learn to decide what’s worth saving? What would your things say about your life story? Do you have any special objects you want your children to have and pass down to their children?

16. Forgiveness is a central theme of Brava, Valentine. What does forgiveness mean to the person receiving it—and to the person offering it? Why do some people struggle with forgiveness? Is there any transgression too big to be forgiven?

17. What are Valentina’s inspirations for her work? How does she keep her creativity fresh?

18. Gram advises her that the key to creativity is for an artist to leave her comfort zone. How can trying something new be stimulating?

19. Tradition is also very important to Valentine. “Gianluca taught me that tradition isn’t something we do, it’s the way we are.” Explain.

20. What challenges do you think lie ahead for Valentine?
(Questions issued by publisher.)

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