Thursday, July 30, 2009

Ambivalent Book Review

I managed to read an entire book this summer, what with all of the work and grading papers and preparing for the French visitor. I like the way Adriana Trigiani writes and I've enjoyed her stories set in Appalachia. Very Valentine is set in New York City and the main character takes a trip to the home country, Italy.
The main character Valentine is 33 and she makes custom shoes with her grandmother. Trigiani has some beautiful description of clothes and shoes in this novel. I guess what separates it from Chick Lit is that she doesn't just drop names of designers, but gives some real details about the clothes and shoes. Valentine's a likable character and her family has a number of idiosyncracies for her to deal with.
The twist in the plot here (spoiler alert) is that while debating the merits of two hunky Italian men, the heroine ends up choosing to be alone in the end and focus on her career. I can understand that the author was trying to show that women don't need men to be happy. I agree, but that's another blog post... The ending just fell a little dead, especially since it was left open that she would always love the American Italian guy, but they were both too busy with their careers. And she would see the Italian guy again in the upcoming year.
The heroine, Valentine, also took a lot of crap from the Italian American guy. He cancelled night after night; he said he'd meet her in Capri(that's right, Italy) then didn't show because of work. And one night she walked in the restaurant he owned and found him with a blonde who was interviewing to be a maitre'd. The two were flirting and touching. Problem was that he had said he was having electrical work done, not interviewing a maitre'd. With each snafu she blamed herself for not being "present" enough for him. In retrospect, that really bugs me. Why do woman always have to take the blame if something is going wrong in a relationship? She even managed to tell him she was sorry, and I was left wondering for what. Sorry I interrupted your date with a blonde? I should have called ahead.
So, even though she took a strong stand at the end, it didn't seem true to her character. I would have liked to see her get mad at the way he treated her instead of ending with an "I'll always love him."
What do you think: do women always blame themselves when a relationship fails?


Stephanie said...


Paulita said...

Yes, you do. You always think you can change him, that if you had just done something else things wouldn't be like this. Or...have you grown past that? I did miss our run last week.

Linda said...

I think many women do. You always ask yourself what you could have done differntly.

Two Cents said...

Look at every relationship, kids, work, friends, spouses, in-laws etc. There is a constant balancing act of what could/can I do to better the relationship. What is my place to change or accept as me, and what is the other person's part to change or not change. Maybe I could replace the word change with responsibility or blame or whatever.

Sometimes when relationships end, it is just so difficult to sum up the story to an outsider, that we simply have rely on cliches and we usually pick one that is politically correct and/or one that won't result in more questions.

I personally hate the "I'll always love him" and even worse "We're still best friends".

Stephanie said...

True. I thought I could change him. I thought I could help him. I thought I could fix him.

I couldn't.

But I don't blame myself. There is nothing I could have done that would have made a difference. I realize that I am not responsible for him or how he behaves.

Paulita said...

That's such a huge step to shift the mantel of responsibility from our shoulders back to where they belong.

Ruth said...

Here's the thing, we always ask "what could we have done differently" they do not. I have had the luxury of late of asking my only heartbreak "what happened" 27 years later. His response "It's just what I did in college, moved on. Ann (the woman he married) was the only one who wouldn't let me". Love played no role as he claims I was the love of his life (hmmm?). So am I left feeling "if only"? No, I am actually left feeling closure here. I love him like crazy and am glad he is again a part of my life, but now I know, if what I really want is a man who wants to be with me above all else, it's not my fault he couldn't be that. BTW, the woman he married, the one he dated right after me, they too are divorced. So we all keep hoping.

His friend Mike has a theory that, excpet for a very few fortunate, every relationship fails, even the marriages that don't end fail in the end. IT is an interesting but depressing thought

Ruth said...

And to you Two Cents, I always have and always will love him, now I don't have to be in love with him.

A Half A Cent said...

Ruth, Didn't mean to offend you or majority of us "who will always love him" - i just think that it goes without saying and a novel could tell me something i don't know or expect. My apologies and by the way your poem was awesome and i love your honest sharing.

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