What better way, I thought, of spending my winter vacation than on a trip to Italy? Short of actually getting on a plane, I thought I’d try Adriana Trigiani’s novel. What a disappointment. Everything is too shiny here. Italy is shiny. New York is shiny. Even Hoboken is shiny. In her rush to get through so many years (and show off her historical research), Trigiani glosses over everything. There’s no grit, so subtlety, no ambiguity. Everything is perfect, even the conflicts, and everything is predictable. My standard for including historical research is that –

a) it has to matter to the story

b) it has to be told in a way that makes sense

Trigiani fails on both counts. She seems to include everything. So often, her efforts to justify the presence of the details is based on some version of, “He saw. . . ” or “She admired. . .” The section featuring Caruso falls particularly flat (though, I admit, it did make me want to listen to him sing).

And yes, I got sad at the end. Right on cue.

Why the title then? Is this all Enza is, in Trigiani’s view, just somebody’s wife? She seemed more to me.

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