Friday, November 8, 2013

Audiobook Review: Rococo by Adriana Trigiani

Rococo by Adriana Trigiani (Abridged, narrated by Mario Cantone; 4 hours 42 minutes): Bartolomeo di Crespi is part of a large Italian family living in New Jersey. He is especially close to his sister Toot who has taken care of "B" since their mother brought home this late in life baby to his big sister. When Bartolomeo vies for and wins the contract to redecorate Our Lady of Fatima Church, the family is proud and "B" sees it as his opportunity to wow his hometown and show them what he's got. Hilarity ensues as a cast of larger than life characters is brought in to help with "B"'s vision for the project and the di Crespi family drama hums along in the background.

Bartolomeo loves his community but also harshly critizies their style (or lack thereof) as any good decorator would. After training at FIT and worshipping at the House of Scalamandre,  it is hard for "B" to return home to New Jersey but that is where his roots are and despite his issues with the decor of the neighborhood homes, he knows it is where he belongs. The opportunity to bring the utmost style and a sense of grandeur to his home parish (Our Lady of Fatima) is an opportunity he can't resist and vehemently pursues..  Fortunately, he is betrothed (since birth by their parents) to Capri Mandelbaum whose mother is the church benefactor and happy to throw her support behind "B" in exchange for his promise to marry her daughter. Bartolomeo adores Capri but really more like a sister - he keeps ignoring that realization while in pursuit of his dream job at OLOF.

Meanwhile, Toot is in crisis - her sons have all left home and now divorced for thirteen years, Toot is lonely.  She acts out by complaining about her one son living in sin with his girlfriend but at the root of her dissatisfaction is a profound loneliness and even Bartolomeo can't ease her out of this low. When she seeks comfort in her ex-husband, things get really interesting.

My Thoughts
In Rococo, Trigiani does what she does best - delivers funny dialogue, larger than life characters and a peek into a tight-knit family. Despite all the humor, the real message is the power of family to gather, provide comfort and ground each of its members.  This quote captures that:

We have a way of being as a family that is purely Italian, beginning with the food we eat and ending with the regalia of our funerals. The care we take with our recipes, the slow preparation of the food, the retelling of old stories with the same familiar punch lines, bring us joy. Of course, there's also the dark side-the arguments, the freeze-outs, the Evil Eye. But eventually forgiveness washes away bad memories like clean rain. To an outsider, this may seem hypocritical. So what? We are what we are. What makes us different is what helps us stick together. We're Italian first and foremost; we can be wily and consistent, and to the outside world we may appear temperamental, moody and clannish, separating ourselves from the greater culture with a cup of arrogance and a dose of superiority. But the truth is, we are bonded by all of it, the best and worst of ourselves, by what we are, how we walk in the world, and the way we hold one another close. We are the sum of all of it, the devotion, the blind faith, the disappointments, the slights, the hurts, the surprises, the insanity, and, yes, that passion that drives us to make love with careless abandon and hold a grudge with the same intensity. What would I be without them?"
I think you could replace Italian with most nationalities and arrive at a similar conclusion regarding the role family plays in our lives.

I generally do not listen to abridged audio - I feel like I am cheating on the book - but Diane from Book Chick Di  had been recommending this production with Mario Catone as the narrator for some time and I am so glad I took her advice. He is genius as this narrator and brought Bartolomeo to life! I could easily have listened to him for an extended period of time but, alas, he only does the abridged version but it was well worth the listen!


  1. One of these days I'm gonna try her work. I love this title and cover.

  2. I'm so glad you liked it! I'm laughing all over again reading your review and hearing Mario's voice in my head. I should listen to this again.

  3. I read this in print and thought it was terrific. I remember Adriana talking about this production a couple of years ago. It sounds great!

  4. I read "Rococo" when it first released and loved it. It's nice to know that the abridged audio was terrific. I just might have to pick it up so I can hear Mario Catone's narration.

  5. I snagged a copy of this a few months ago at a used book sale. Ever since I didn't love Trigiani's Big Stone Gap, I've been kind of leery of giving her another shot, but I think you and all the rest of her big fan bloggers have persuaded me she's worth another try! =)

    1. Definitely worth another try. I read Shoemaker's Daughter last year - it was excellent and more of an epic than her others. You might want to try that one - it's a little different from her others in my opinion.

  6. Her books are always so good.

    Thanks for this great post.

    And...thanks for stopping by my blog and commenting on ONCE WE WERE BROTHERS and My Mailbox Monday.

    Hope all is going well for you in NYC.

    Silver's Reviews
    My Blog

  7. I have yet to read any of Trigiani's books - this looks like a good place to start!