by Adriana Trigiani
Poignant, funny, warm, and red hot, Very Valentine is a wonderful treat for Adriana Trigiani fans—a “delightful” (Boston Globe), “romance-soaked novel” (Marie Claire) from much adored playwright, screenwriter, documentary filmmaker, and New York Times bestselling author of Lucia, Lucia; Rococo; and Big Stone Gap. The adventures of an extraordinary and unforgettable woman as she attempts to rescue her family’s struggling shoe business and find love at the same time, Very Valentine sweeps the reader from the streets of Manhattan to the picturesque hills of la bella Italia. Already a national bestseller and soon to be a Lifetime movie, here is a valentine from the incomparable Trigiani that you can take into your heart.
The Angelini Shoe Company, one of the last family-owned businesses in Greenwich Village, has been making exquisite wedding shoes since 1903 but now teeters on the brink of financial collapse. To save their business from ruin, thirty-three-year-old Valentine Roncalli—apprentice to and granddaughter of master artisan Teodora Angelini—must bring the family's old-world craftsmanship into the twenty-first century. Juggling her budding romance with dashing chef Roman Falconi, her duty to her family, and a design challenge presented by a prestigious department store, Valentine returns to Italy with her grandmother in a quest to build a pair of glorious shoes to beat their rivals. And in the course of discovering her true artistic voice and so much more in la bella Italia, Valentine will be turning her life and the business upside down in ways she never expected.
Last February I was thrilled to interview and work with Adriana Trigiani. I also was able to review VERY VALENTINE and do a giveaway. VERY VALENTINE is out now in paperback and I say definitely get a copy and read it before going on to BRAVA VALENTINE which is the new sequel just out and you will see here on BOOKIN' WITH BINGO for a giveaway next!
Recently, my book club I enjoy being a part of read VERY VALENTINE. Everyone in the club was really enthusiastic about the book and loved the characters Valentine, Roman, and especially Grandma Teodora. The discussion questions below are a good thing to use to get your book club discussions going. I was lucky and had won a box of Li Lac Very Valentine chocolates from Jennifer at Book Club Girl for a contest I entered for book clubs reading the book. So it was truly a SWEET night and fun read and we all strongly recommend the book...and the chocolates! If you have clicked on my review and interview from my original post of VERY VALENTINE, you may want some updated information on Adriana Trigiani and this is the link to get you there. You can also read an excerpt from VERY VALENTINE here. I hope you will check back later today for my review and giveaway of Adriana's sequel to VERY VALENTINE, just out BRAVA VALENTINE! Have a LOVING VALENTINE'S DAY!
READING GROUP DISCUSSION QUESTIONS:
1. Valentine Roncalli begins her tale with the words, “I am not the pretty sister. I’m not the smart sister either. I am the funny one.” How does her outlook color her actions? What do you think of Valentine? Do you agree with her assessment or do you think she might be selling herself short?
2. One of the major themes of Very Valentine is family. Describe the Roncalli family. How does their bond enrich Valentine’s life? How might it affect her adversely, both in her romantic and professional endeavors? Offer some examples from the novel.
3. What defines family for the Roncallis? How would you fit into Valentine’s family? What defines family for you? What is your family life like now and what were your experiences growing up?
4. Compare Valentine with her mother, Michelina (“Mike”), and her grandmother, Teodora.
What elements of her personality does Valentine get from both women? Does she take after one more than the other?
5. Valentine’s sister-in-law, Pam, has a difficult time fitting into the Roncalli family. How much of this is the result of her own actions? Are the Roncalli sisters responsible as well?
6. Tradition is another them of Very Valentine. Her sister Tess calls Valentine traditional, yet Valentine disagrees. “I guess I appear to be one of my tribe, but the truth is, whenever I have the opportunity to walk the hard line of tradition, I balk.” Is Tess right, does Valentine represent tradition? How does she balk at it, as she claims? Which sister has the more realistic view?
7. Valentine ponders the question: “How do we survive in a contemporary world without losing everything my great-grandfather built?” Is there a role for tradition and traditional craftsmen and artisans in our technologically dependent modern world?
8. What does tradition mean for your life? Are there any you particularly cherish that have been handed down through past generations? How do you keep traditions alive? How can you start new ones?
9. Romantic love and the yearning for it infuse the novel. Valentine is a single woman in a world seemingly defined by marriage. Can a woman be fulfilled and yet remain single? Can she be happy without a man?
10. Describe Valentine’s love interests, Roman and Gianluca. What does each man provide that the other doesn’t? Did you prefer one to the other? Do you think she could be happy with either of them—or someone like either of them?
11. When Roman tells her that he will be few days late meeting her in Capri, what do you think about her reaction to his news? What about when he cancels on her?
12. What role did the trip to Capri play in Valentine and Roman’s relationship?
13. The Roncalli family offers numerous insights, both profound and humorous for Valentine. Her mother tells, “You see, that’s when you know for sure somebody loves you. They figure out what you need and they give it to you—without you asking.” What do you think of this view of love?
14. Mike also advises her daughter, “I believe in setting goals that one can achieve. Low expectations make for a happy life.” Can not expecting much make you happy? How? What would happen to Valentine if she followed this advice?
15. When talking to her father, Valentine discovers that he has a spiritual philosophy: “What about me is eternal?” How would you answer this question? Besides children, what might you leave to future generations?
16. Throughout the novel, Valentine works hard to save the Angelini Shoe Company. If she is successful, she gains stability. What do you think will happen if she fails?
17. Valentine describes the art of making shoes: “My grandmother has taught me that the palette for leather and suede is limitless, like musical notes.” What do our shoes say about ourselves? How is Valentine’s passion, making shoes, a metaphor for her life?
18. In Adriana Trigiani’s vivid prose, New York City and Italy are like “characters” in the book. Describe Valentine’s New York. How does “her” city compare to the New York you might know of—or have imagined? What is Italy like through her eyes? What does each place offer Valentine?
19. What does Valentine learn about herself in Italy? How do those lessons affect her?
20. What do you think of Teodora’s news? Why do you think she kept her relationship a secret all those years?
21. At the end of the novel, Valentine turns away from both Roman and Gianluca. “In this moment, I choose art.” Is this the right choice for her? What might it mean for her and for the Angelini Shoe Company? Does she have to choose love and career?
23. What did you learn from Valentine’s experiences? What advice would you give her about her love life and her career?