Lucia Sartori is the beautiful twenty-five-year-old daughter of a fine Italian immigrant family in Greenwich Village, New York, in 1950. Fuelled by the post-war boom, in which talented girls with ambition are encouraged to follow their dreams, Lucia becomes an apprentice for a made-to-wear clothing designer at a chic department store on Fifth Avenue. Though she is sought after as a potential wife by the best Italian families, Lucia stays her course and works hard, determined to have a career. She juggles the roles of dutiful daughter and ambitious working girl perfectly. When a handsome stranger comes to the story and catches her eye, it is love at first sight for both of them. In order to win Lucia’s hand, he must first win over her traditional family and make the proper offer of marriage. Their love affair takes an unexpected turn as secrets are revealed, Lucia’s family honour is tested, and her own reputation becomes the centre of a sizzling scandal. Set in a time of possibility and change for women in America, in a city that celebrates its energy with style and elegance, LUCIA, LUCIA is the story of a girl who risks everything for the belief that a woman could – and should – be able to have it all.
When I want something to read that isn’t challenging, but is heartwarming, funny and emotional I turn for an Adriana Trigiani novel. Her stories, often based within Italian American culture, have feisty heroines, epic love stories, and wondrous descriptions of either food, clothes and shoe making, decorating or the music business. Lucia, Lucia begins as we meet Kit Zanetti, a playwright waiting to be discovered, who meets her upstairs neighbour. Lucia Sartori offers Kit some tea, and this evolves into a museum or gallery visit as Lucia shows Kit just some of the treasures she has accumulated over her life. Astounded by some of Lucia’s possessions, Kit asks for her story. So Lucia begins to tell a story that starts in 1950s New York when she was the most beautiful girl in The Village. She and her four brothers are brought up in NYC within a close knit Italian community and she is engaged to a lovely Italian boy, Dante. She also has a career she loves as a seamstress in a big department store. Worried that her marriage would mean giving up the job she loves, she decides to end her relationship. She is fighting against the very role her society expects of her – to become a wife and mother, with all of her energy focused on the home.
Then, John Talbot arrives on the scene. John is a businessman who appears wealthy and could take Lucia away from the ‘little life’ she was promised by Dante. She imagines a more upscale lifestyle where she can continue her work designing and creating on Fifth Avenue, plus have all the trimmings of an affluent home life. I kept thinking that this was a pipe dream and everything was going to go wrong. I understood Lucia. It wasn’t just about having money, but having choices. She wants the cushioning afforded by John’s money to pursue her own dreams without it being such a struggle. Yet, John has drawbacks too. He isn’t Italian for a start, but also he’s secretive and quite tight lipped about where his money is from. I worried that Lucia was being conned and that choosing John would be a harder path than she expects.
In-between this love story, Lucia has a wonderfully described trip to Italy with her family. Here Lucia discovers art and culture, swaps incredible recipes with her sister-in-law and even has a job offer from her co-employer. This is where Lucia could make choices that give her true independence, but is she now too entwined with John? Will she find herself choosing between marriage and a career after all? She may have to face more serious revelations about this man than she ever expected. It’s clear to me that John is a bad choice very early on, but I’m older and have made poor choices in relationships when I was young. Lucia doesn’t have that hindsight or experience. It’s easy to think she could have stayed with Dante and still worked as a seamstress, but we forget that before the contraceptive pill, marriage automatically meant children. Once children came along it would have been very hard to pursue a career as a designer, she may have been able to take in sewing, but not pursue a career.
There’s so much to like about this book. I loved the portrayal of the Italian American community and Lucia’s relationships with her family. The author gives us just enough information up front, but we don’t find out how Lucia’s life moved on until the final section when she finishes relaying her story to Kit. It keeps the reader engaged, because we’re dying to know how things worked out for her. This is a bittersweet novel that reminds us we can’t have everything in life. Many choices, no matter how hopeful and happy they seem, can come with a sacrifice in the long term. The sort of romance we see in the movies, all hearts, flowers and candlelit baths, is rare in real long term relationships. Living together, especially within a family, can be anything but romantic. However, if we prefer the hearts and flowers, we can miss out on the closeness and support in those tougher times. Lucia gives us the benefit of her hindsight as she evaluates her life, perhaps hoping to pass on this wisdom.
Meet The Author
Beloved by millions of readers around the world for her “dazzling” novels (USA Today), Adriana Trigiani is “a master of palpable and visual detail” (Washington Post) and “a comedy writer with a heart of gold” (New York Times). She is the New York Times bestselling author of eighteen books in fiction and nonfiction, published in 38 languages around the world, making her one of the most sought after speakers in the world of books today.
Adriana is also an award-winning film director and screenwriter, playwright, and television writer and producer. She wrote and directed the award-winning major motion picture Big Stone Gap, based on her debut novel, filmed entirely on location in her Virginia hometown. Big Stone Gap spent 11 weeks in theatres in the fall of 2015 and was the #2 top-grossing romantic comedy of the year. She wrote and directed the documentary film Queens of the Big Time, winner of the Audience Award at the Hamptons and Palm Springs International Film Festivals. Her screen adaptation of her bestselling novel Very Valentine premiered on Lifetime television in June 2019, launching their National Book Club. She directed the feature film Then Came You, starring Craig Ferguson and Kathie Lee Gifford, filmed on location in Scotland. Adriana co-founded The Origin Project, an in-school writing program which serves over 1,700 students in the Appalachian Mountains of Virginia. Adriana is at work on her next novel for Dutton at Penguin Random House for release in 2021, and a children’s picture book for Viking at Penguin Random House for release in 2021. She lives in New York City with her family.
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