Friday, January 4, 2019

Book Review: Tony's Wife by Adriana Trigiani

Pages: 320
Genre: Adult Historical Fiction
Pub. Date: November 20, 2018
Publisher: Harper
Source: Library
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "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."

Chi Chi Donatelli lives with her musical family in Sea Isle City, New Jersey, which is part of the Jersey Shore. Its the late 1930s, which means Big Band music is all the rage.  Chi Chi has big dreams; she doesn't want to work at the clothing factory forever. She wants to break out of her sleepy little shore town and make a name for herself. She is a singer as well as a writer and while she has sung songs with her sisters at various gigs, she wants more.  Then there's Saverio who lives in Detroit with his parents.  He spends the day working at the car factory and nights singing in the church choir. After his father kicks him out, he pursues his dream of becoming a professional singer, after all, he has a lead with a legitimate band thanks to his solo on Christmas Eve at church. As time goes by, Saverio has some success as a Big Band singer and when he meets the irresistible and charming Chi Chi down the shore, he knows she is something special.  He has had many girlfriends, but he has never met anyone like her.  Saverio is a notorious playboy though, so Chi Chi doesn't want anything to do with him at least that way. Before they know it, the two are touring together and living out their dreams as professional singers.  Chi Chi isn't going to be like the rest of the girls and fall for Saverio's charm, right?  Tony's Wife by Adriana Trigiani is such a delightful story and a sweeping family saga.  It had me laughing one minute and tearing up the next; it was completely entertaining.

Chi Chi is such an incredible character in Tony's Wife. I loved her from the start. She's spunky, unconventional, smart, and determined. Who wouldn't adore her? I admired her desire to do more and be more than just a wife or a mother, which was unheard of for the time period. She has so many dreams for herself and never let the fact that she is a woman hold her back.  Her desire to be financially free and to be financially savvy was also something to admire.  On the other hand.... there's Saverio.

Oh, man. I did not like Saverio, also known as Tony.  Even when he was nice to Chi Chi, I could see right through him in Tony's Wife.  While I did feel bad for him regarding how his father treated him, I still didn't approve of his many bad decisions and let's just say there were a ton.  I really couldn't see why someone as great as Chi Chi would fall for him and continue to fall for him.  But I will say it makes for an entertaining love story.

I absolutely adored the setting of the Jersey Shore in Tony's Wife. My heart skipped a beat when I read the words Sea Isle City. I have been visiting Sea Isle for over thirty years, so it was so much fun to revisit it in the 1930s/1940s.  I also loved the Big Band era as well as all the other musical details Trigiani included.  Chi Chi is a talented writer, so it was very descriptive in that sense as it included snippets of various lyrics. I also think Trigiani captured the time period of World War II very well and illustrated its horrific impact on just about everything.  Trigiani truly created a sense of place that was memorable.

Trigiani captures characters very well in all of her novels, but especially in Tony's Wife. By the end of her novels, you feel like you know the characters and you care about them despite their downfalls.  Needless to say, I truly cared about Chi Chi and was sad to turn the final page of Tony's Wife.  Trigiani has become one of my favorite authors when it comes to feel-good novels featuring memorable characters. 

Are you a fan of Adriana Trigiani's novels? Which one is your favorite?  Let me know in the comments. 


  1. I've read a couple of this author's previous novels but haven't kept up with her in recent years. I love the Jersey Shore setting!

    1. You'll love this setting then! It was a lot of fun to read about SIC during the 30s and 40s. Thanks for visiting, Angela!


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