Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Book review--Antonio's Wife, Jacqueline DeJohn

Set in 1908 in New York City, Antonio's Wife is the story of Mina, an Italian immigrant. She works an seamstress, but like all immigrants, dreams of something better for herself. Unfortunately, Mina's husband Antonio beats her and openly cheats on her with his Irish mistress, Kathleen. One day, however, Mina finds herself noticed by the temperamental opera star Francesca Frascatti, and is promoted to be the singer's dresser. Mina then falls in love with Dante, a detective playing the role of Cesca's fiancé. It turns out that both women have secrets in their pasts, secrets that make for an exciting, page-turning read.

Antonio's Wife is extremely dramatic at times, and although the emotions that the characters experience seem a bit too over-the-top, I found myself rooting for the heroine, Mina, as she struggles to overcome the obstacles that are thrown into her path--including dodging her extraordinarily boorish and not-too-bright husband Antonio. However, I thought that the author could have started the book out with more background information on Cesca, as opposed to the middle--up until that point, I was a little bit confused about the details of Cesca's story. I was also confused by the "flashbacks" Mina has. While they were illustrative of her background, the author didn't really make it clear that they were flashbacks as such.

On the other hand, this was a page-turner. At first, it seems as though all its going to be is just a story about the author's ancestors, with a nice mother-daughter reunion, but the story promises to be so much more than that. I'm not sure how much of the book is fiction and how much is fact or based upon it, but it sure does make for an excellent story. Jacqueline DeJohn's style reminds me a lot of the novels of Jennifer Donnelly.

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