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A Novel

Written by Adriana TrigianiAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Adriana Trigiani



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Synopsis

New York Times bestselling author Adriana Trigiani, beloved by millions of readers around the world for her humor, warmth, and captivating storytelling in the Big Stone Gap trilogy and Lucia, Lucia, takes on love, lust, tricky family dynamics, and home decorating in Rococo, the uproarious tale of a small Italian American town poised for a makeover it never expected.

Bartolomeo di Crespi is the acclaimed interior decorator of Our Lady of Fatima, New Jersey. To date, Bartolomeo has hand-selected every chandelier, sconce, and ottoman in OLOF, so when the renovation of the local church is scheduled, he assumes there is only one man for the job.

From the dazzling shores of New Jersey to the legendary fabric houses of New York City, from the prickly purveyors of fine art in London to luscious Santa Margherita on the Mediterranean coast of Italy, Bartolomeo is on a mission to bring talent, sophistication, and his aesthetic vision to his hometown.

Trigiani’s glittering mosaic of small-town characters sparkles: Bartolomeo’s hilarious sister, Toot, is in desperate need of a postdivorce transformation–thirteen years after the fact; “The Benefactor,” Aurelia Mandelbaum, the richest woman in New Jersey, has a lust for French interiors and a long-held hope that Bartolomeo will marry her myopic daughter, Capri; Father Porporino, the pastor with a secret, does his best to keep a lid on a simmering scandal; and Eydie Von Gunne, the chic international designer, steps in and changes the course of Bartolomeo’s creative life, while his confidante, cousin Christina Menecola, awaits rescue from an inconsolable grief.

Plaster of Paris, polished marble, and unbridled testosterone arrive in buckets when Bartolomeo recruits Rufus McSherry, a strapping, handsome artist, and Pedro Allercon, a stained-glass artisan, to work with him on the church’s interior. Together, the three of them will do more than blow the dust off the old Fatima frescoes–they will turn the town upside down, challenge the faithful, and restore hope where there once was none.

Brilliantly funny and as fanciful as flocked wallpaper, filled with glamorous locales from New Jersey to Europe, from Sunday Mass to the American Society of Interior Designers soirée at the Plaza Hotel, Rococo is Trigiani’s masterpiece, a classic comedy with a heart of gold leaf.


"A veritable crazy quilt of quirky Italian Americans ... Trigiani weaves all these subplots together with wonderful ease; every seam is perfectly straight, every pleat in place. Bartolomeo would expect no less. A-." -- Entertainment Weekly

"Clever ... Creating characters so lively they bounce off the page and possessing a wit so subtle that even the best jokes seem effortless, Trigiani is a master storyteller. Equal parts sass and silliness, Rococo is an artfully designed tale with enough brio to make Frank Gehry proud."-- People


From the Hardcover edition.

Excerpt

CHAPTER ONE

The Duke of Décor

on the Jersey Shore

1970



I want you to imagine my house. It’s a classic English country cottage, nestled on an inlet overlooking the Atlantic Ocean in the borough of Our Lady of Fatima, New Jersey, about five miles north of Interlaken. The fieldstone exterior gives the illusion of a small fortress, so I softened the overall effect with white hyacinth shrubs and a blanket of sky-blue morning glories cascading over the dormers like loose curls on a cherub. After all, a man’s home must first be inviting.

Every morning at sunrise a honeyed pink light fills the front room, throwing a rosy glaze on the walls that cannot be achieved with paint. Believe me, I’ve tried. I settled instead for a neutral shade on the walls, a delicate beige I call flan. When the walls are tame, the furnishings need to pop. So I found the perfect chintz, with giant jewel-toned flowers of turquoise, coral, and jade bursting on a butter-yellow background, to cover my Louis Quatorze sofa and chairs. The upholstery soaks up the light and warms the room better than a fire blazing in the hearth. Anyone who says you will tire of a bold pattern on your furniture is a fool. The right fabric will give you years of joy; it can become your signature. Scalamandré’s Triomphe #26301 has my name on it.

My day begins at dawn as I take my cup of strong black espresso outside to watch the sunrise. I learned this ritual from my mother, who worked in a bread shop. Bakers are the great philosophers of the world, mostly because they have to get up early. When the world is quiet, great art is created—or, at the very least, conceptualized. Now is the moment to sketch, make notes, and dream.

From my front porch, a dignified, simple portal with a slate floor (I laid the charcoal-gray, dusty-mauve, and smoky-blue slabs myself), I watch the colors of the sky and sea change at the whims of the wind. Sometimes the ocean crashes in foamy white waves that look like ruffles. Then, suddenly, the light is gone and everything turns to gray satin. When the sun returns, the charcoal clouds lift away and the world becomes as tranquil as a library, the water as flat as a page in a book, Venetian glass under a blue cloudless sky.

What a boon to live on the water! Such delicious shades and hues! This is a template worthy of the greatest painters. The textures of sand and stone could inspire incomparable sculptures, and the sounds—the steady lapping of the waves, the sweet chirping of the birds—make this a sanctuary. I soak up the view in all its detail and translate this glorious palette to the interiors of local homes. You see, I am the Town Decorator.

Many have compared our little borough to the village my family emigrated from, the enchanting Santa Margherita nestled in the Gulf of Genoa on the Mediterranean coast of Italy. I’ve been there, but I favor my hometown over the original. Italy, despite its earthiness and charm, can never be New Jersey. Here we value evolution and change; Italy, while it warms the heart, is a monument to the past. In America we change our rooms as often as our fashions. In Italy you’re likely to find throw pillows older than the Shroud of Turin. It’s just a different way to live.

Part of my job is to convince my clients that change is good, then guide them to the right choices. I remember when I installed a velvet headboard on my cousin Tiki Matera’s double bed (she was plagued by insomnia from the cradle) and she told me that, for the first time in her life, she felt so secure that she slept through the night. That Art Deco touch changed her room and her life—not a small thing. That’s the business I’m really in: creating appropriate surroundings to provide comfort and that essential touch of glamour. I built my company, the House of B, and my reputation on it. HOB stands for the eye of Bartolomeo di Crespi and the guts of beauty itself: truth, color, and dramatic sweep, from slipcover to oven mitt. I don’t fool around.

My work can’t be defined by one particular style. The rococo period where French design and Italian flair came together make my heart leap for joy in my chest. But, I love them all: Chinese Modern, Regency English, French Norman, Prairie Nouveau, Victorian (without the precious), Early American (with the precious), all the Louises from I through V (Vuitton, of course), postwar, prewar, bungalow, foxhole, and even the occasional log cabin. I can go big and I can do small.

I work from the inside out. Truly great interior design includes the rooms you live in and everything your eye can see from your windows. I often bring the colors from outside indoors, which soothes the soul and creates harmony. I may install a reflecting pool outside your living room to catch the moonlight, or plant a garden of wildflowers with a rose arbor anchored over a flowing fountain beyond your kitchen window, or perhaps place a wrought-iron loveseat surrounded by lilac bushes outside your bedroom for a midnight rendezvous.

Your home should inspire you to greater heights of emotion. It should crackle with color and pizzazz. Every detail is important; every tassel, tieback, and sheer should say something. Under my trained eye, stale corners become Roman baths, while bland entryways become magnificent foyers and crappy pasteboard ceilings become frescoes. Let’s face it, I can take a ranch and turn it into a villa. In fact, I did that very thing right on Vittorio Drive, three blocks away.

My life as a decorator began not with a sudden flash of inspiration, but with a problem. I was born without symmetry. This is not my real nose. As soon as I was old enough to pull myself up onto the stool in front of my mother’s dressing table (an Art Deco red enamel vanity with a pink velvet seat circa 1920), where I could pull the side mirrors in to study my face from three angles, I realized that something had to be done. From the east, my nose looked like the fin on a Cadillac, from the west, a wedge of pie, and dead on, a frightening pair of black caverns, two nostrils so wide and deep you could lose your luggage in them. It had to go.

As an Italian American, I was born into a family of prominent noses. The di Crespi clan was known for their fish (Pop had a dinghy for clamming and crabbing, and a storefront in town to sell his catch) and their profiles. We were not alone. Our neighbors were also of Italian descent, many from the same village, and they too had versions of The Beak. The variations included all possible shapes, angles, and appointments, all with the same result: too large.

I was raised to be proud of my cultural and nasal heritage, so it wasn’t shame that brought me to the surgeon, it was a desire for perfection. My instinct is to create balance. Faces, like buildings, require good bones.

As soon as I could save up enough money (I worked after school and for five summers in the Mandelbaums’ bank as a coin sorter and roller), I took the bus from Our Lady of Fatima (OLOF) to the office of Dr. Jonas Berman on East Eighty-sixth Street in Manhattan. I was eighteen years old with a spiral-bound sketch pad under my arm and a checkbook in my pocket.

First, I’d drawn a self-portrait in charcoal, showing my original nose. Then, in a series of detailed drawings, I fashioned the nose I wanted from every angle. Dr. Berman flipped through the pad. Amazed at my artistic skill, he cited Leonardo da Vinci’s pencil sketches of early flying machines as being substandard to my talent.

If I was going to have rhinoplasty, I wanted to make sure I had the nose of my dreams. I didn’t want a hatchet job that would leave me with a Hollywood pug. I wanted regal, straight, and classic. In short, Italianate without the size. I got exactly what I wanted.

My sister, Toot (as in the song “Toot, Toot, Tootsie,” not the toot of a horn), who is eleven years older than me, was the first person to see my new nose when the swelling went down. She was so thrilled at the result that she convinced my father to sell his car so she could have the same surgery. My father, never one to tell a woman no, paid for her to have The Operation (as my mother came to call it). Never mind that I had worked like a farmer to earn my new profile. But I don’t hold a grudge.

Toot elected to have her nose done not in New York City by my capable surgeon, but by a doctor in Jersey City who was rumored to have given Vic Damone his signature tilt. (I am the only person in my family who does not believe in medical bargains.) When Dr. Mavrodontis peeled Toot’s bandages off, Mom, Pop, and I were there for the unveiling. Mama clapped her hands joyfully as Papa got a tear in his eye. Talk about change. Her new nose had a sharp tip with an upturn so steep you could hang a Christmas stocking off it. Gone was her old nose, which had looked like an elbow; but was this delicate Ann Miller version an improvement?

To be fair, the new nose gave my sister the dose of self-confidence she needed. She suddenly believed she was beautiful, so she went on a spartan diet of well-done steak and raw tomatoes and lost a good thirty pounds, tweezed her eyebrows and straightened her hair (by sleeping on wet orange-juice cans every night for a year), and, shortly thereafter, in the right pair of black clam diggers and a tight angora sweater, fell in love with Alonzo “Lonnie” Falcone, a jeweler, at a Knights of Columbus weenie roast in Belmar. Six months later they had a big church wedding at Our Lady of Fatima Church and three sons followed in short order. Her nose may not be perfect, but it was lucky.

817 Corinne Way has been Toot’s address for eighteen years. After they lived for a couple of hardscrabble years in a row house in Bayonne, Lonnie’s business took off, so they bought a home in OLOF to be near my folks. When Toot and Lonnie divorced, she got the house, a lovely Georgian with grand Palladian columns anchoring a polished oak door trimmed in squares of leaded glass.

I pull up in the driveway next to my sister’s chartreuse Cadillac. I get out of the car, taking a small footstool that I reupholstered for Toot with me. The lawn is freshly mowed and green. The boxwood hedges are trimmed and tidy. Everything about the exterior of the house is appropriate except for one glaring design misfire: My sister mucked up the entrance with a countrified porch swing she found at a tag sale in Maine. I tell her that a Georgian with a porch swing is like a hooker in a girdle, but she keeps the swing and I keep my mouth shut. The truth is, I’m a little afraid of her. Toot has always been a second mother to me, and any Italian son will tell you that two Italian mothers in a lifetime is a handful. I’m not complaining, because we adore each other; I defer to her on family matters, and she to me on aesthetic ones (most of the time; after all, she kept the swing).

“I’m here!” I holler cheerfully. Toot’s house always smells of anisette and fresh-perked coffee, the lovely bouquet of our mother’s home.

“Back here, B,” she yells.

Carrying the footstool I’d re-covered in pale blue wool for her boudoir, I make my way down the long hallway, which is papered in a Schumacher pale-yellow-and-white paisley print. I decorated the entire house, but my favorite room is her kitchen. I did a real number on it.

First, I sent my sister to Las Vegas to visit Cousin Iggy With The Asthma for three months. Then I gutted the old kitchen. I installed a bay window on the back wall to maximize the light and designed a Roman shade of pure white muslin to let in the sun but keep out the nosy neighbors. Underneath I built a window seat with cushions covered in a practical red cotton twill (Duralee Hot Red #429). I believe that any fabrics used in a kitchen should be washable.

For fun, I used oversized zippers on the seat cushions to pick up the metal accents of the appliances. To bring nature indoors, I used rustic white birch paneling on the wall around the window. I papered the remaining walls with a bold Colefax and Fowler red-and-white stripe and installed white Formica cabinets with red ceramic pulls. The result is peppermint-candy delish!

The countertop, in white marble, has an extension that swings out in an L shape to make a breakfast nook, with sleek bar stools covered in white patent leather with brass-stud trim. The studs are an excellent accent to the shimmering copper pots that hang over the sink area like charms on a bracelet. The refrigerator (side-by-side) and stove (gas) were purchased in white, but I had them delivered to Chubby’s Garage, where they were jet-spray-painted a bright, shiny, fiery red. I’m forever thinking of ways to give design that extra kick, using unlikely sources. Take note.

The kitchen table is topped with wide white ceramic tiles. Beneath the table, I installed a cutting board that pulls out for additional workspace. It comes in handy when Toot makes pasta. The table is surrounded by cozy booth seating in a cheerful red gingham. The palette works. It’s vibrant! It’s up! When you stand in this kitchen, you feel as though you are on the inside of a tomato, the exact effect I wanted.

“You like my pants set? It’s new.” Toot does her version of a model’s twirl, pointing her right foot out in front of the left and holding her arms out waist-high like a milkmaid. The sweater is a disaster, an enormous white pilgrim collar on a cable-knit orange cardigan. (I can see that the wool is a fine cashmere, but what good is it? The eye sees round, round, round instead of sleek. My sister needs length, not width.) The brown slacks have a wide bell hem. She looks like a piece of candy corn. “It’s a St. John knit,” she says, giving me an in-the-know wink.

“Only a saint could get away with such a color combination,” I say.

Like all Mediterranean girls, my sister is aging well. By soft candlelight or with the help of a dimmer switch, she has the look of a plump Natalie Wood. In broad daylight, she’s a dead ringer for our great-grandmother, the pleasantly pudgy Bartolomea Farfanfiglia, whom we never knew, but who stares at us with disgust from a sepia photograph on the television set.


From the Hardcover edition.
Adriana Trigiani|Author Q&A

About Adriana Trigiani

Adriana Trigiani - Rococo

Photo © Tim Stephenson

ADRIANA TRIGIANI is an award-winning playwright, television writer, and documentary filmmaker. The author of the bestselling Big Stone Gap trilogy and the novel Lucia, Lucia, Trigiani has written the screenplay for the movie Big Stone Gap, which she will also direct. She lives in New York City with her husband and daughter.

Author Q&A

Bartolomeo di Crespi, the main character of ROCOCO, is the acclaimed interior decorator of Our Lady of Fatima, New Jersey. A treasured member of the community, he provides moral support and good advice as well as great decorating tips.

Jennifer Morgan Gray, a writer and editor who lives in Washington, DC., sat down for a chat with Our Lady of Fatima’s decorator of choice, Bartolomeo di Crespi, to see what he’s been up to since Rococo.


Jennifer Morgan Gray: First of all, Bartolomeo–or should I call you B?–Rococo really takes me back to the 1970s. How was the time when the book is set such a pivotal one for you? Do you have any nostalgia for it?

Bartolomeo di Crespi: Well, of course, 1970 was a big year for me because I renovated and redesigned Our Lady of Fatima Church. But more than that, it was the year that I opened myself up as a decorator and began to look around and appreciate the work of other artists. You see, I am the only decorator in OLOF, so I was a little king, you might say, ruling my patch of grass with an iron hand. Whatever your decorating needs were, you came to me. I was spoiled. That was the year I learned I wasn't the only game in town, and ultimately, that was a gift–a relief.

JMG: Why were you so determined to remodel Our Lady of Fatima? What’s your favorite aspect of the new design? How does it look now, almost three and a half decades after its original execution? What do you consider its lasting legacy?

BdC: Oh, I had dreamed of redoing my church from when I was a boy. I never understood why church had to be gloomy, the pews forbidding and the colors drab. My favorite aspect of the new design is the Wall of Water, because it represents everything true spirituality is about: our souls washed clean. The church is being maintained beautifully, of course, because the people of OLOF are very persnickety about maintenance. Our cemetery looks like a flower box.
 
JMG: You say at one point in Rococo that duty is more important than self-improvement for the di Crespi family (page 95). Has your attitude changed since that time?

BdC: It's still true., for me. As for the next generation, there's been so much change, I wonder if they value their Italian heritage the way I do. It seems secondary to them, whereas to me it was always the center of my life. The food, the traditions, the responsibility to take care of one another. I just hope I don't keel over from a stroke–I would definitely wind up in a home. Families just don't take the elderly in anymore. It's a shame.
 
JMG:
Why is your family so vitally important to you? Is it just an Italian thing, or is it something more?

BdC: My family is important to me because that's how I was raised. I never thought about myself first–it was my mother, my father, my sister, and my cousins. I was close to my aunts and uncles and revered them like a pack of extra parents. That's just the way it was.

JMG: Father Porporino goes from being a thorn in your side to being in your corner (well, at least he seems to be in your corner). How do you account for his change of heart? Do you think you’d ever forgive him after you were first passed over for the job of remodeling the church?

BdC: Oh, Father Porp–may he rest in peace. He just ran the church the best way he knew how– and in those days, priests were not accountable to parish councils and such, so they ruled their parishes in whatever fashion suited them. I came to really like Father Porp–in the later years, we took a couple of bus trips into New York City to see Broadway musicals. He especially loved Mary Testa when she starred in 42nd Street. He was a bit of a groupie for her singing, dancing, and acting.

JMG: There’s quite a bit in this book about miracles. Do you think that Eydie Von Gunne was a miracle of sorts? After all, she dropped into your life and almost immediately it took a different turn.
And the people she introduced you to, like Rufus and Pedro, affect not only your life but also the lives of those close to you.

BdC: Oh, yes, miracles come in the form of friends and their insights. I don't necessarily have to see water change to wine–the right piece of advice at the right moment is heaven sent, and therefore classifies as a miracle.

JMG: How did Rufus’s involvement in the church renovation bring your creativity and imagination to life? Do you think you needed a collaborator in order to complete the project?

BdC: Oh, Rufus McSherry. What a wonderful man–so different from me. But I aspired to his talent and his strength. He was a giant. Once he agreed to work with me, I just sat back and took orders–so, yes, my first collaboration was my best one.
 
JMG: You say at the beginning of the book that “Capri is a forty-year-old green banana.” What do you think prompted her to ripen? Is she still a good friend of yours? How is Aurelia handling Capri and Pedro’s marriage?

BdC: Capri has remained a wonderful friend to me. She and Pedro are still like young lovebirds–I see them a couple of times a month. Aurelia passed away in 1975, but she did live to see her grandchild, who was born the year after the work on the church was completed. That was a huge gift to her.

JMG: Did Christina ever truly triumph over her debilitating sadness? How does she feel about her portrait being at the forefront of Our Lady of Fatima?

BdC: Christina remarried a wonderful man around her fiftieth birthday, so eventually she healed. But of course, she never forgot her first husband, and she told me that no one would ever take his place. I think she came to a comfortable point in her life where she wanted companionship. With Amalia off to college, she felt she could focus on herself. That's when her new husband walked into her life.

JMG: You were grappling quite a bit with your feelings about the “new” Roman Catholic Church in Rococo. How are you feeling in light of Pope John Paul’s recent death? What do you think about the state of the religion today (not to mention the third secret of Fatima, revealed in 2000)?

BdC: Oh, my dear church. So many problems. And yet, we still "have" it: our traditions–our prayer life, our love of life. I would like to see my church change–yes to women priests, yes to married priests, and yes to our time-honored traditions. After all, our church started in small services in private homes, hosted by women. We should remember that as we move forward.

JMG: How is Two doing now? Did he ultimately join the House of B? Were you surprised when he revealed that he was gay?

BdC: Two is running the House of B. He has a lovely partner, Tom, who is a writer. They live in Interlaken. I see them often–and he's running my company with skill. I'm very proud of him.
 
JMG: How do you feel about the path that design has taken in the past thirty-five years? Are there any particular design icons that you revere–besides those at the House of Scalamandré, of course? How do you feel about the popularity that decorating has enjoyed over the past decade, with people like Martha Stewart leading the charge?

BdC: I love that a passion for interior decorating and design seems to be sweeping the nation. I’ve always maintained that nothing is more important to a well-run home and peaceful existence than a beautiful setting. It matters that your bedroom has fresh air, a good mattress, and no clutter. It matters that your kitchen is a warm gathering place where you make delicious meals that sustain the health of your loved ones. Gorgeous paints and wallpapers and rugs are the accessories of the life you are living, and they should reflect you–who you are and where you are going. It happens to be a fact: People behave better when the world is lovely. I only wish I had another lifetime to use my talents where they are truly needed–in hospitals, rest homes, and prisons. We consign our sick and lowly to the worst possible buildings with hideous lighting, grotesque colors, and sad furnishings. If I had this other lifetime, I would devote myself to making a hospital gorgeous and a prison uplifting–so a prisoner might repent and change–and a rest home a retreat. Why should the last thing you look at before death be a sallow, peeling green wall in a closet where the window won't open? Alas, I don’t have enough years to achieve this goal.

JMG: At the end of the book, you’re absolutely jubilant about having remained a bachelor. What made you realize that you weren’t meant to be married? Do you still have that same attitude?
 
BdC: I will go to my grave thrilled that I am single. I love my solitude. I also love a good party–I still see my pal Eydie Von Gunne for dinner in the city. We're old now, but I have to say, she still looks gorgeous–and she has more stories now than she did thirty years ago, which is saying a lot, as she was the most entertaining raconteur I ever came across. As an old man, I can tell you that I love now what I loved then: a good meal, interesting conversation, and a hearty glass of red wine. Really, what more is there? Unless we're talking about eating at a polished cherrywood table, in a chair covered in velvet, with a Venetian chandelier twinkling overhead like a dazzling jeweled crown. Remember: Surroundings first, company second, and third, enjoy!


From the Hardcover edition.

Praise

Praise

Praise for Adriana Trigiani

The Queen of the Big Time


“Full-bodied and elegantly written . . . [Trigiani builds The Queen of the Big Time] around an old-fashioned love story. . . . Pure pleasure.”
The Washington Post Book World

“Moving and poignant . . . Trigiani has again defied categorization. She is more than a one-hit wonder, more than a Southern writer, more than a women’s novelist. She is an amazing young talent.”
Richmond Times-Dispatch

Lucia, Lucia

“This heartwarming tale is full of lessons about taking risks in life and love.”
Cosmopolitan

“Trigiani’s writing is as dazzling as Lucia’s dresses.”
USA Today

“Seamlessly superb storytelling . . . Trigiani never loses hold of the hearts of her characters–or of the wisdom that tragedy and redemption are also part of life.”
St. Louis Post-Dispatch


From the Hardcover edition.
Discussion Questions

Discussion Guides

1. The author, Adriana Trigiani, begins Rococo with a discussion of Bartolomeo’s house and its dŽcor. Through this introduction, what do you immediately learn about the book’s protagonist? What aspects of B’s home best represent his personality and character?

2. B identifies strongly with his home and the way it is decorated. Do you feel that the surroundings of your home give similar clues to your personality? How?

3. What details in Rococo evoke the setting of 1970s New Jersey? What do you think the novel would have been like had it been set in another time period or locale?

4. What is it about B that is so alluring to the women around him? How is he alternately transfixed by, and indifferent to, the women in his life? In particular, how do Capri and Eydie have an impact in the way that B views and relates to the opposite sex?

5. Why do you think that Bartolomeo uses a nickname in lieu of his given name? How does the moniker “B” give a different impression from “Bartolomeo”?

6. How would this book have been different had it been told from someone else’s point of view–for instance, that of Eydie, Rufus, or Toot? In another vein, what effect would shifting the point of view to an impartial, third-person point of view have?

7. How are B and Toot similar? In which ways do they challenge each other? Do they enable each other in any way? Is any aspect of their relationship reminiscent of one you’ve had with a sibling?

8. “My temperament is better suited to making art than saving souls,” says B (page 39). How does this statement give you a glimpse into B’s personality? Describe his struggle with the Roman Catholic Church.

9. How does spirituality play a part in B’s everyday life? How does not being selected as the designer for the church renovation thrust him into a spiritual crisis? What about Father Porp frustrates him? How do the two ultimately become allies?

10. How does Christina deal with grief and loss? How does she blossom within the novel? What do you think her daughter will grow up to be like, based on your glimpse of her in the book?

11. What similarities does B share with his namesake, Two? Were you surprised when Two disclosed his homosexuality? What is B’s attitude toward sexuality?

12. How is Eydie Von Gunne a larger-than-life personality? What does she represent to B? How are the two of them kindred spirits?

13. Why are Pedro and Capri an unlikely couple? What about each might attract the other? Why do you think Aurelia is so disapproving of the match, and what ultimately compels her to accept the marriage?

14. How does B’s family disrupt his life? How are they a loving and supportive presence? In which ways is B a loner, and how is he fully integrated into the family fold?

15. Why do you think Eydie rebuffs B’s advances? Do you think that he loves her? What prompts his declaration about becoming a lifelong bachelor? Do you think he’ll ever change his mind?

16. Why do you think B has “decorator’s block” when faced with revamping the church? What are his weaknesses as a designer? How does collaborating with Rufus allow B to be more creative and less of a “people pleaser”?

17. In which ways is B’s discovery of the statue of Little Mary a miracle? Why does B donate the ensuing windfall to the church renovation? If you were in a similar situation, what do you think you might have done?

18. What does the inclusion of recipes add to the novel? Are there any that you have tried or plan to try? Do you have any signature dishes, like those of B and his family and friends, that you would include in a book?

19. Would you like to see a sequel to Rococo, following either B or another character? If not B, who?


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