21/10/2012

Lucia, Lucia (by Adriana Trigiani)

I first came across the name of the writer Adriana Trigiana when Amazon recommended some of her books, based on my previous choices and ratings. I read the blurbs, and thought that some of them sounded quite interesting... but not sufficiently so to add them to my wishlist.  Then, browsing idly through a second-hand church bookstall, I noticed this, which was Amazon's most oft-repeated suggestion. For a euro, I thought it was well worth buying.

'Lucia, Lucia' begins with Kit is a playwright living in 21st century New York. She hasn't had much luck with her writing so far, and lives in an apartment in a rather dilapidated old building. She is on nodding acquaintance with other residents, but finds herself strangely drawn to an elderly lady known to everyone as Aunt Lu.

Kit - somewhat reluctantly, at first  - accepts an invitation to tea with Aunt Lu one afternoon. It's the start of an amazing friendship. Lu - whose name is really Lucia - starts to talk about her life as a young Italian growing up in America in the 1950s. She worked in a dress design shop, and was engaged to an upstanding young man.. but realised that she didn't want to spend the rest of her life as a down-trodden wife. So she broke off her engagement...

The majority of the book is written in flashback form, told by Lucia, so entirely through her eyes. It took me several chapters to get into it, not helped by the fact that I kept expecting it to return to the present; this didn't in fact happen until almost the end. However, I soon realised that Lucia's story was a fascinating one in its own right, giving wonderful insights into the way a young woman in this situation would be torn between family loyalty and modern concepts of equality. She wanted to respect her parents, but she also wanted to follow her heart.

Lucia has several brothers, so is subject to the natural male dominance of the era, while longing to exert her independence. Unsurprisingly she falls in love along the way, and the story starts to become a bit tense when the reader is aware that all is not as it should be... even then, events are shocking at times.
There's tension, romance, lots of family ups and downs, and something of a bittersweet conclusion... which then leads the story back into contemporary times, and at last I  understood why the book begins as it does with Kit meeting Lucia; it's Kit who can help to provide some answers to concerns that have stayed with Lucia over the decades.

By the end of the book I was enjoying this quite a bit, although it took me a long time to reach the stage of wanting to read more than a chapter at a time. That's not a bad thing when I'm reading late at night, but it means that it took me three weeks to complete an average length novel.

I think I'd recommend it, in a low-key kind of way. Intended for women but readable by anyone who likes a low-key character-driven plot. Published in 2003, and still in print as well as being widely available second-hand.

Review copyright Sue's Book Reviews, 21st October 2012

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