What It’s About:
Ciro and Enza grew up in the Italian Alps just a few towns apart. Fate crosses their paths as teenagers and a budding romance begins. After witnessing the scandalous behavior of the local priest, Ciro is forced to go into hiding in America with no word left to a heartbroken Enza. He takes up an apprenticeship as a shoe maker in Little Italy, New York to build a life for himself.
Some years later, Enza and her father decide to go to America after their family is hit with hard times in Italy. Enza takes up a job in Hoboken, New Jersey in a clothing factory, dreaming of becoming a designer seamstress with her best friend Laura. Ciro and Enza meet again while they are working hard in their own separate lives to achieve the American dream. Unfortunately, timing is just not on their side. Ciro has enlisted to the army to serve in World War I and Enza has a burgeoning career as a seamstress at the Metropolitan Opera House. Their love for each other never fades and perhaps fate will bring them together again.
What I liked:
I was blown away by the descriptive writing of the story. I felt transported to another time and place. The book covers a big chunk of time, from 1905 to 1944 and takes the readers through the Italian Alps, Ellis Island, Little Italy, New Jersey; Manhattan, and Minnesota. My favorite parts were when the story was told from Enza’s point of view because her character was resilient, independent, and ambitious. It has been a while that I have admired and been inspired by a female character to work hard and follow my dreams. Enza’s story was also the most interesting to me because she was a seamstress and worked her way up from a simple mountain girl from Italy, to making dazzling costumes for the Metropolitan Opera which appealed to my interest in fashion history.
What I didn’t like:
The plot of the story dragged on at times. After awhile, the frequent missed timing of them getting together and the pining for each other got repetitive. Sidenote: I have seen other reviews that point out several historical inaccuracies in the book (which I didn’t notice). So if you are a stickler for that kind of thing, it may put a damper on your reading experience.
I regret not reading this book sooner. It has been on my Kindle TBR bookshelf for many years. The overall story was unique and I liked that the main characters were immigrants who were determined to make a better life for themselves and their families. The Shoemaker’s Wife gave me the exact escape that I needed! I would recommend this book for readers who have in interest in:
- New York history
- Fashion history
- Families and Friendship
- Working class and/or immigrant characters
When I read historical fiction, I like to take a look around the internet and see what information I can find on the real thing while I am reading the book because it helps be better understand the time period. Below are some videos of New York from the time period. In the book, Enza makes the costumes for opera singer Enrico Caruso, who was the first opera singer to record his music for the masses. You listen to his music on the internet and music streaming services.
Historical Film Clips, Photos, and music
The Metropolitan Opera
The Metropolitan Opera has a database and archives collection on their website. You can find interesting things in their database, spotlight archive articles, and memorabilia collection.
As I mentioned in the book review, I loved reading the parts of the book where Enza was working in the costume department at the Met. Check out this video below from the Guardian that gives in inside look into the the costume shop in modern day. It is fascinating to see how they work!