Beth's Book Review

The Queen of the Big Time by Adriana Trigiani (Ballentine Books, 2005)

143adc242a4cee90f249_Queen_of_the_Big_Time.jpg
143adc242a4cee90f249_Queen_of_the_Big_Time.jpg

            The Queen of the Big Time by Adriana Trigiani, a New York Times best selling author, was recommended to me by a young woman who actually came from the town of Roseto, Pennsylvania, the place where the novel is set. “The author did such a wonderful job of describing how the town actually is,” said the young lady. “I am not a great reader, but I loved this book.”

            Intrigued, I bought a copy of The Queen of the Big Time and was surprised to learn that Trigiani has written a number of novels about life in small town America. She is best known around the globe for a series that she has penned called “The Big Stone Gap” trilogy.

            The Queen of the Big Time proved to be an easy, fluid read, with a charming story of several Italian families who had emigrated to America in the late 1800s and landed in the small town of Roseto, Pennsylvania. The protagonist of the story, Nella Castelluca is a girl who dreams of going to high school, college, and ultimately becoming a school teacher. She lives on a farm with her industrious parents and four sisters, and has mastered the meaning of hard work and responsibility to the family. When her father shatters his leg in an accident in the local quarry where he works part time to make ends meet, Nella is forced to forego her hopes of going to school in order to keep the farm afloat while her father convalesces. Like her sister, Nella takes a menial job in the local shirt manufacturing company at the age of 15. Despite the fact that her dreams have crumbled, Nella quickly uses her skills and wits to be noticed by the factory's owner, who makes her a foreman at the age of 16.

Sign Up for E-News

            Aside from joining the labor force, Nella becomes enamored of the handsome Renato Lanzara, the son of a well-to-do family in the town. Although Renato seems quite taken with Nella, who is seven years his junior, she knows that he sees a lot of girls, and has a reputation for being quite a lady's man. When the couple becomes entangled for a short time, Nella is shattered when Renato disappears, leaving her only an empty letter of apology.

            While her sisters marry, move into town, and begin to have families of their own, Nella loses herself in work and shuts off her emotions until she is the subject of the attentions of the tall and good- looking Franco Zollerano. Nella looks down at Franco as an uneducated menial worker; his specialty is fixing machines. She longs for someone to tempt her poetric soul and intellectual side. Aside from not seeing Franco as her equal, Nella clings to the romantic ideal of Renato, making it impossible for her to give her heart to another.

            The charm of The Queen of the Big Time is in its description of the early 20th century, when people retained Old World beliefs and customs. For example, the novel's title comes from an annual competition between the young women of Roseto. Those girls wishing to compete must sell tickets to the annual church fair, and the one who sells the most is crowned as The Queen of the Big Time. She leads the parade of worshippers through the streets until they come upon the statue of the Virgin Mary, on whom the Queen places a golden crown.

            The only problem with the novel is in its pacing. The book opens and spends a good amount of time with Nella's youth and years as a laborer in the factory. Then the novel skips ahead through the next several decades, barely touching upon key events that happen to the Castelucca family. While Trigiani does a nice job of tying up the story's loose ends, the development of the latter part of the book seemed rushed and undeveloped. However, this was not enough of a detriment to keep me from ordering Trigiani's best seller, Lucia, Lucia on-line. The Queen of the Big Time falls into the category of light reading, but it's perfect for summer fare.

Beth Moroney, former English teacher and administrator in the Edison Public School District, specialized in teaching Creative Writing and Journalism. Recently Moroney published Significant Anniversaries of Holocaust/Genocide Education and Human/Civil Rights, available through the New Jersey Commission on the Holocaust. A passionate reader, Moroney is known for recommending literature to students, teachers, parents, and the general public for over forty years. Moroney can be contacted at trackdak19@hotmail.com.

The opinions expressed herein are the writer's alone, and do not reflect the opinions of TAPinto.net or anyone who works for TAPinto.net. TAPinto.net is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the writer.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

Roselle/Roselle Park

Union County’s Free Summer Concert Series Launches Fri, June 22

June 22, 2018

UNION COUNTY, NJ -- The New Jersey Symphony Orchestra kicks off Union County’s 57th annual Summer Arts Festival series of free outdoor concerts sponsored by the Freeholder Board with an evening of Broadway favorites, beloved opera overtures and more on Friday, June 22, at 7:30 p.m. at Echo Lake Park in Mountainside.

Attendees are also invited to bring a mat or beach towel and join ...

Register by June 18 for Summer of Fun Camp in Roselle

ROSELLE, NJ - Get your kids ready for best eight weeks of their young lives, as Roselle presents the 2018 version of its summer fun camp for borough youngsters.

Under the direction of Recreation Director Donald Shaw, borough officials have put together eight weeks of fun, from outdoor adventures, to movies, to arts and crafts, to bowling to swimming. There are also visits to a lake and to a ...

Vitale Family to Hold “Alex's Lemonade Stand” Fundraiser

ROSELLE PARK, NJ - The Vitale Family in Roselle Park will be participating in "Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation for Childhood Cancer" this Saturday, June 16. 

The Vitale family has a son Matteo who has pediatric cancer and they want to help raise awareness.

The family will have a lemonade stand in front of there home at 718 Chestnut Street in Roselle Park, to raise ...

Roselle Park Bulk Collection Company Experiencing Significant Delays

ROSELLE PARK, NJ - The Borough of Roselle Park's Bulk Waste Collection contractor is experiencing significant delays at the solid waste transfer station designated by the Union County Utilities Authority. 

Due to these disposal delays, residents should expect delayed pickups today and Friday, as applicable, and potentially through the weekend.

The Borough remains in close ...

Roselle PBA to Host 2nd Annual Free Softball Clinic

ROSELLE, NJ - The Roselle PBA will be hosting their 2nd Annual Free Softball Clinic at Sylvester Land Field for all ages and skill levels.

The clinic will be held on Tuesday, July 10. Youth ages 5 to 11 will be held from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. and ages 12 to 18 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. 

While the event is primarily for girls, boys are also welcome to join in on the fun that will ...

Make Music Roselle Park Lineup Includes Rock Bands, Singer-songwriters, Free Harmonica Lesson

ROSELLE PARK, NJ - The lineup for the first-ever Make Music Roselle Park will include two rock bands, a pair of singer-songwriters, a free beginner harmonica lesson and more.

The event being held on June 21, Make Music Roselle Park is part of Make Music Day, a global music celebration that takes place on the summer solstice each year and brings people of all ages and skill ...

Linden Man Arrested After Explosion in Cranford

June 22, 2018

CRANFORD - On Wednesday, June 20, 2018 at 7:06 p.m. the Cranford Police Department received
information that an explosion was heard in the area of Raritan Road and Summit Terrace. Through
a joint investigation with the Union County Prosecutor's Office and Linden Police Department, the
Cranford Police Department Detective Bureau identified a suspect through surveillance video ...

Gov. Murphy still pushing a millionaire's tax, won’t say when he'll sign sports betting, weed bills

June 11, 2018

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - With a showdown on the state budget looming just 22 days away, Gov. Phil Murphy today re-emphasized his call for a tax on the state’s wealthiest households while hoping to avoid another shutdown of state government.

“Do I still want a millionaire’s tax? The answer is ‘yes,’ “ Murphy said at a press conference at the John ...

Register Today for Summer Youth Courses Offered at Union County College

June 22, 2018

CRANFORD – This summer the Office of Continuing Education at Union County College is expanding its course offerings for youth ages 11-18. Classes are taught by NJ-certified teachers and subject matter experts that specialize in delivering high-quality youth programs. Classes begin the week of June 25 and run through August 23.

Classes offered include Introduction to Musical Theater, ...

'Half Time' delivers with sterling cast

MILLBURN, NJ – The Paper Mill Playhouse is putting on a smashing new production of “Half Time” to round out its current season.

With actress Georgia Engel in an engaging performance, the cast also features Donna McKehnie, Andre De Shieilds and Lilias White, among a host of other talents.

The musical centers on an effort to have seniors perform a dance number during ...

'Half Time' lights up Paper Mill stage

‘Half Time’ turns the tables on aging in gleeful production

By Liz Keill

MILLBURN, NJ – The Paper Mill Playhouse is putting on a smashing new production of “Half Time” to round out its current season.

With actress Georgia Engel in an engaging performance, the cast also features Donna McKehnie, Andre De Shieilds and Lilias White, among a host of other ...