The Shoemaker’s Wife is an epic novel about Italian immigrants to America in the early 1900s. The book primarily follows one couple, although points of view are also extended to their parents, child, friends, and various other characters.
Being a huge fan of immigrant fiction, I particularly enjoyed the part of the book that talked about the characters learning to be American, missing home, and creating new lives for themselves while still retaining vestiges of what they remembered from Italy.
However, I did have a couple of issues with the book, which I suspect may be genre-related so may not bother you if you like books of the historical-romance-to-read-on-the-beach variety.
- First, I was bothered by how easy so many things were. Things like, voila, someone turns up at just the right time, oh look, of all the small towns in America they happen to be in the one where his father lived, oh wow, he got there five minutes before she was going to be married…One or two of those coincidences or instances of perfect timing would be one thing, but they kept occurring throughout the book and it started to feel like a Deus ex machina after a while.
- Second, the book was about 150 pages too long. You know I’m not afraid of long books, and in fact I prefer them, but even though this book was a fast read (470 pages in less than two days of just here and there reading) the story was spread out over too many pages. I think the story would have been stronger had it been tightened up and made to be a little less sprawling.
But as I said, both the easiness and the meandering may be characteristic of the genre. The books I like best tend to be a little more fraught and tightly wound, but that is just my preference. I did enjoy aspects of the story, and I don’t regret reading it. If you have a vacation coming up, The Shoemaker’s Wife may be just the thing.
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