Tony’s Wife/ posted in: Book Review, Reading Tony's Wife by Adriana Trigiani
on November 20, 2018
Genres: Fiction, Historical
Published by HarperAudio
Source: Book Tour, From author/publisher
Set in the lush Big Band era of the 1940s and World War II, this spellbinding saga from beloved New York Times bestselling author Adriana Trigiani tells the story of two talented working class kids who marry and become a successful singing act, until time, temptation, and the responsibilities of home and family derail their dreams
Shortly before World War II, Chi Chi Donatelli and Saverio Armandonada meet one summer on the Jersey shore and fall in love. Both are talented and ambitious, and both share the dream of becoming singers for the legendary orchestras of the time: Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey, Benny Goodman. They’re soon married, and it isn’t long before Chiara and Tony find that their careers are on the way up as they navigate the glamorous worlds of night clubs, radio and television. All goes well until it becomes clear that they must make a choice: Which of them will put their ambitions aside to raise a family and which will pursue a career? And how will they cope with the impact that decision has on their lives and their marriage?
From the Jersey shore to Las Vegas to Hollywood, and all the dance halls in between, this multi-layered story is vivid with historical color and steeped in the popular music that serves as its score. Tony’s Wife is a magnificent epic of life in a traditional Italian family undergoing seismic change in a fast paced, modern world. Filled with vivid, funny and unforgettable characters, this richly human story showcases Adriana Trigiani’s gifts as a storyteller and her deep understanding of family, love and the pursuit of the American dream.
You know what you are getting into if you’ve read this author previously. This is the story of an Italian family told from the time the protagonists are teenagers until their deaths. The writing is sparse. Small pieces of time will be discussed in detail and then years will pass between paragraphs.
I was intrigued by the premise, especially this line from the blurb – “Which of them will put their ambitions aside to raise a family and which will pursue a career?” I was hoping this was going to be a book that discussed the stereotypical gender roles of a post-WWII marriage and possibly subverted them. My hopes were high as the beginning of the book shows Chi Chi was infinitely more talented and more ambitious than Tony.
All this was swept aside quickly though once the marriage happened. I’m not even sure why it happened. I found their “courtship” incredibly uncomfortable as he basically badgers her into giving up her dreams because he decided that he was in love with her when in her mind they were just old friends. This is followed by affair after affair until a divorce and then she still supports him through several more marriages all the while closing herself off completely to the idea of finding love.
“Duty-bound love is the Italian girl’s area of expertise. The Italian woman is a master craftsman at the art of sacrifice.”
I don’t think that this is a good thing. This story is about a woman who sacrificed everything that she was to a man who couldn’t be bothered to care. I found it infuriating and ultimately depressing to read about. I understand that this is much more likely to be historically accurate than a book about people supporting each other in their careers. That is part of the reason why this book made me so angry. This is about a time and attitudes that we have hopefully begun to move past.