Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
I'm not a fan of "stream of consciousness" writing, so right off the bat this book had a strike against it. However, it's one of those books that everybody has read and about which reams of ecstatic reviews have been written so I put it on my "Guilt List" and finally got around to reading it. To my surprise, I liked it.
I didn't spend a lot of time analyzing it, but it surely is not a book you can read quickly or without thought. It requires something of the reader, always a good thing I think.
It takes place over the course of one day, ending with a party held at the home of Clarissa Dalloway. Beginning with Clarissa's thoughts about the party, and a reunion with an old love, the point of view moves from person to person as the various invited guests think about their lives, their problems and the coming party. It sounds odd to describe it, but it flowed very well and moving from inside one person's head to the next wasn't strange at all.
Much could be said about this one, and has been by more qualified reviewers, but as I've been saying, in the past few months my reading has been more for distraction than anything else and I've not been spending a lot of time thinking about what I read. Still, I'm glad I read this. It's a short book, but it made a big impact and I think these characters will stay with me.
The Shoemaker's Wife by Adriana Trigiani
This is one of those rich, epic stories you can get lost in and that make you feel sorry to turn the last page. It tells the story of Ciro Lazzari, from the time he and his brother were left at an orphanage as children right through to the end of his life. Beginning in a tiny mountain village in Italy, it follows him to America where he becomes apprenticed to a shoemaker and where he crosses paths with a girl, Enza Ravenelli, whom he had met briefly while he was still in Italy. Enza has become a seamstress at the Metropolitan Opera House and has a comfortable life with some famous friends and a handsome suitor. Fate has a different plan for Ciro and Enza however.
I'm not an avid reader of romances, but this one held my attention. To qualify as "good" for me it has to have more than just romance. I like a book to take me someplace, a different location, a different time, a different industry, a different culture and then I can enjoy the romance as it's fleshed out on the bones of an interesting story. The Shoemaker's Wife offers a look at Italy, it's geography, history, culture and religious structure then moves to early 20th century America - New York and Minnesota. It opened up to me the glamorous world of the opera and the more mundane life of a shoemaker, then the difficult years of World War One, all of which added interest and detail and set a foundation for the romance that followed.
The writing, the character development and the story were all good, so if you're looking for what my mother used to call a "good yarn", you should take a look at this. I found it fun and relaxing to read with geography and history lessons thrown in for nothing. What's not to like? Hope you enjoy it!