Saturday, August 4, 2012

Audiobook Review: The Queen of the Big Time by Adriana Trigiani

The Queen of the Big Time
Author: Adriana Trigiani
Narrator: Cassandra Campbell
Published: March 31, 2004
Genre: chick lit
Audiobook: 8 discs
Source: borrowed from the library

My Rating: 3 stars

Synopsis (from GoodReads): In the late 1800s, the residents of a small village in the Bari region of Italy, on the shores of the Adriatic Sea, made a mass migration to the promised land of America. They settled in Roseto, Pennsylvania, and re-created their former lives in their new home–down to the very last detail of who lived next door to whom. The village’s annual celebration of Our Lady of Mount Carmel–or “the Big Time,” as the occasion is called by the young women who compete to be the pageant’s Queen–is the centerpiece of Roseto’s colorful old-world tradition.

The industrious Castellucas farm the land outside Roseto. Nella, the middle daughter of five, aspires to a genteel life “in town,” far from the rigors of farm life, which have taken a toll on her mother and forced her father to take extra work in the slate quarries to make ends meet. But Nella’s dreams of making her own fortune shift when she meets Renato Lanzara, the son of a prominent Roseto family. Renato is a worldly, handsome, devil-may-care poet who has a way with words that makes him irresistible. Their friendship ignites into a fiery romance that Nella is certain will lead to marriage. But Nella is not alone in her pursuit: every girl in town seems to want Renato. When he disappears without explanation, Nella is left with a shattered heart. Four years later, Renato’s sudden return to Roseto the night before Nella’s wedding to the steadfast Franco Zollerano leaves her and the Castelluca family shaken. For although Renato has chosen a path very different from Nella’s, they are fated to live and work in Roseto, where the past hangs over them like a brewing storm.

An epic of small-town life, etched in glorious detail in the trademark Trigiani style, The Queen of the Big Time is the story of a determined, passionate woman who can never forget her first love.

My Thoughts: This is the fourth Adriana Trigiani book that I've read and I think that it differed a bit from her other novels that I've read. It still featured an Italian-American leading lady and her big family. There is love involved. But for some reason, there was something that was a bit off in this novel. Focusing on Nella Castelucca and her family in Roseto, Pennsylvania, Trigiani tells the tale of Nella's life, from middle school to her death. You see her go from a young girl with a thirst for knowledge to someone trying to provide for her family. Nella matures and grows as a character, from someone who is focused on her education to someone who will do whatever it takes to provide for her family. I thought that she was a well-written character and a strong main character.

I liked some of the other characters. There is Franco, a young machinist who is madly in love with Nella. He was so amiable that you can't help but love him. And he is a good foil to Nella and her practicality. I also like Nella's parents. They are loving and supportive and only want the best for their children. Trigiani's novels feature a large cast of characters, but for some reason, there just seemed to be too many this time. It was distracting and sometimes hard to keep up with. Once again, I loved Cassandra Campbell's narration. I think she's my favorite audiobook narrator. She does voices so well that it's easy to differentiate between each character. She is also filled with emotion and you instantly empathize with the characters. While not my favorite Trigiani novel, it was still an enjoyable listen.

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