Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Book Review: The Good Left Undone by Adriana Trigiani

Pages: 448
Genre: Adult Historical Fiction
Pub. Date: April 26, 2022
Publisher: Dutton
Source: Publisher for review
My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "Matelda, the Cabrelli family's matriarch, has always been brusque and opinionated. Now, as she faces the end of her life, she is determined to share a long-held secret with her family about her own mother's great love story: with her childhood friend, Silvio, and with dashing Scottish sea captain John Lawrie McVicars, the father Matelda never knew. . . . In the halcyon past, Domenica Cabrelli thrives in the coastal town of Viareggio until her beloved home becomes unsafe when Italy teeters on the brink of World War II. Her journey takes her from the rocky shores of Marseille to the mystical beauty of Scotland to the dangers of wartime Liverpool--where Italian Scots are imprisoned without cause--as Domenica experiences love, loss, and grief while she longs for home. A hundred years later, her daughter, Matelda, and her granddaughter, Anina, face the same big questions about life and their family's legacy, while Matelda contemplates what is worth fighting for. But Matelda is running out of time, and the two timelines intersect and weave together in unexpected and heartbreaking ways that lead the family to shocking revelations and, ultimately, redemption."

This sweeping saga starts with Domenica Cabrelli and her friend, Silvio, on an adventure in coastal, Viareggio, Italy.  Domenica marches to her own beat as she is a woman during a time where they aren't afforded many options, but that doesn't stop her from dreaming big. Her best friend, Silvio, is the town outcast, as he is a bastard, but, again, that doesn't deter her from being good friends with him.  As the years go by, Silvio and his mother leave the town, but Domenica never forgets him.  She starts to study to become a nurse and them gets herself into trouble with the powerful Catholic Church.  As her punishment, the church sends her away for a period of time to practice her nursing in France, so her world changes in the blink of an eye.  While there, she truly comes into her own and she also meets Captain John McVicars, a Scottish sea captain, and despite their differences a romance blooms. Meanwhile, things are getting dangerous as Italy is getting involved in WWII.  Fast forward to present day and Domenica's daughter, Matelda, is reaching the end of her life. She has stories that should be shared and family secrets that need to be told, especially as her granddaughter starts to question aspects of her life.  Adriana Trigiani's multi-generational saga, The Good Left Undone, won't disappoint fans and historical fiction lovers will be wholly entertained.

Domenica is a character I immediately enjoyed in The Good Left Undone. What a force to be reckoned with! I adored her fire, her grit, her spunk, and her intelligence. Her childhood time with Silvio warmed my heart and the coastal town of Viareggio was so beautiful.  As the years go by, women are still considered second class citizens and afforded very little options; however, Domenica wants to forge a different path for herself by becoming an educated nurse.  While offering advice to a young woman regarding her health, she gets into some trouble as this advice goes against the Catholic Church. God forbid women do any sort of family planning! So, then Domenica finds herself exiled to France working at a hospital. That's when her real adventure begins both in love and life.  I absolutely adored this part of the novel and her blossoming romance with John McVicars. I can't say enough about how Trigiani brought the time period to life so very well as the world was on the brink of war. Domenica longed to return home, but it was unsafe.

The present day story lines were also done well as they were about Domenica's family many years later. It was interesting to see how their story continued and what happened to the Cabrelli family.  Matelda, Domenica's daughter, wants to share the truth with her family and I adored her journey to get to that point. You know how certain books remind you of certain people? Whenever I crack open one of Trigiani's novels, I am instantly reminded of my grandmother and transported to another time.  I love that Trigiani can do this so very well and capture a bygone era.

As I mentioned before, Trigiani's settings in The Good Left Undone are fantastic -- some of her best!  I felt like I was there! Whether she was describing the beautiful coastal region of Italy, the rocky shores of France, or the beauty of rugged Scotland, I felt like I was there. I especially liked the descriptions of Scotland and really enjoyed being transported there. I did learn a lot about WWII and how it impacted the Irish Scots. I had no idea that they were basically rounded up and how dangerous things were for Italians that lived in Scotland or France. This aspect of the book definitely kept me turning pages.

Trigiani is one of my favorite authors and I adored The Good Left Undone. I know her legions of fans will enjoy it as well and I highly recommend it to them as well as fans of historical fiction, especially if readers enjoy stories about strong women as well as a multi-generational sagas that tug on your heartstrings.

So, are you a fan of Adriana Trigiani? Is The Good Left Undone on your TBR list or have you read it already? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. 


  1. I haven't read her books in awhile, but this sounds fantastic! All those beautiful settings, and Domenica sounds like such a strong character!

    1. I think you'd like this one! Thanks for visiting, Angela!

  2. Great review. I picked this up as my April BOTM selection after much contemplation, so glad I did. I adored the strong women, the love story and especially the family bonds present between these pages. I wasn't disappointed for picking this one for my BOTM box.

  3. I picked this on up in my April 2022 BOTM box. So glad I did. What a great review of the story. I loved the multigenerational family saga and especially how strong the women were throughout the story. I hear the author is big on family ties and the importance of family, it really shines through in this book.

    1. I'm so glad to hear you enjoyed it. You can't go wrong with Trigiani! Thanks for dropping by, Gina.


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