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The Queen of the Big Time  By  cover art

The Queen of the Big Time

By: Adriana Trigiani
Narrated by: Cassandra Campbell
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Publisher's Summary

Known and loved around the world for her sweeping Big Stone Gap trilogy and the instant New York Times best seller Lucia, Lucia, Adriana Trigiani returns to the charm and drama of small-town life with Queen of the Big Time. This heartfelt story of the limits and power of love chronicles the remarkable lives of the Castellucas, an Italian-American family, over the course of three generations. 

In the late 1800s, the residents of a small village in the Bari region of Italy, on the shores of the Adriatic Sea, made a mass migration to the promised land of America. They settled in Roseto, Pennsylvania, and re-created their former lives in their new home - down to the very last detail of who lived next door to whom. The village’s annual celebration of Our Lady of Mount Carmel - or “the Big Time,” as the occasion is called by the young women who compete to be the pageant’s Queen - is the centerpiece of Roseto’s colorful old-world tradition. 

The industrious Castellucas farm the land outside Roseto. Nella, the middle daughter of five, aspires to a genteel life “in town,” far from the rigors of farm life, which have taken a toll on her mother and forced her father to take extra work in the slate quarries to make ends meet. But Nella’s dreams of making her own fortune shift when she meets Renato Lanzara, the son of a prominent Roseto family. Renato is a worldly, handsome, devil-may-care poet who has a way with words that makes him irresistible. Their friendship ignites into a fiery romance that Nella is certain will lead to marriage. But Nella is not alone in her pursuit: every girl in town seems to want Renato. When he disappears without explanation, Nella is left with a shattered heart. Four years later, Renato’s sudden return to Roseto the night before Nella’s wedding to the steadfast Franco Zollerano leaves her and the Castelluca family shaken. For although Renato has chosen a path very different from Nella’s, they are fated to live and work in Roseto, where the past hangs over them like a brewing storm. 

An epic of small-town life, etched in glorious detail in the trademark Trigiani style, The Queen of the Big Time is the story of a determined, passionate woman who can never forget her first love. 

©2004 Adriana Trigiani (P)2004 Books on Tape, Inc.

Critic Reviews

“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)

“Trigiani takes from her own heritage to craft a generous plot-driven novel that’s a breezy page-turner...‘Queen’ offers a personal saga of American history and a romance woven together with warmth and good humor.” (Oregonian

“A sweet story of growing up, marrying, and dying within the framework of family, love, and community...[The Queen of the Big Time] will make you smile and reminisce about gentler, more civil times in small-town and rural America.” (The Boston Globe

What listeners say about The Queen of the Big Time

Average Customer Ratings
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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Excellent book - bad synopsis on this site

This is a terrific book (as are all of Adriana Trigiani's books). She's a fabulous storyteller.

I wanted to make note here that the description of this book, as it appears here on audible.com, has a lot of errors in it. Nella is not the eldest (which is important to the story), she's the middle of 5 girls. And the so-called "rumors" of Lanzara's disappearance are also wrongly described here. I won't spoil it, but felt these errors should be noted.

8 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

What a lovely book

I enjoyed this book very much. The main character, Nella, gives the story of her life starting at the age of 14. Her feelings and relationships are well developed. The narrator has a very smooth voice and add an Italian accent when it is called for. She reads the book much the way I would have. This is definitely a book I plan to listen to again, from time to time.

8 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Highly Recommend

Although I enjoyed "Lucia, Lucia" more than this book, it is still worth anyone's time and money to get this title. Probably what I found to be most significant is that a story can still be enjoyable without sex and vulgarity weaved in every other thought.

The characters have their difficulties and are not all lily-white. And that is the beauty of the story-telling. The narration parallels this well. This family does not always get along with each other. Events do not always go as planned. The main character is not the best mother there ever was. Yet their story is told for us to learn from and enjoy.

Make it an enjoyable listen by choosing this book. You won't regret it. I just wish audible would offer an unabridged version of The Stone Gap.

4 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Excellent

I couldn't stop listening. The story made me feel as if I went back in time of my own family's upbringing, traditions and loyalties. Very touching.

4 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Wonderful characters

I love Adriana's work. In all her books she developes her characters so well that they seem like they were your aunts or uncles! Real people living ordinary lives. Being of Italian heritage myself,her writing really does describe what it's like to be part of a big Italian family. Lucia Lucia was another favorite of mine.

2 people found this helpful

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Beautiful family saga

I love how she develops each character and weaves them into a can’t-wait-to-get-back-to story. No book of hers has ever disappointed me. Thank you, Adriana.

1 person found this helpful

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Enjoy the characters depth and their misgivings

I am not Italian but as a child I spent one Easter Sunday with a big Italian family. To this day I still remember so many of the numerous details because it was such an experience. This author captures the heart and soul of family dynamics. She makes me wish I was from a large Italian family.

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Italy in America

To me this was about family and lots of love. The scene in the middle of the night and elephants raising the big tent that Franco took his family to see was so heartwarming. We have lost those days.

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Loved this from beginning to end!!!❤

Loved it, narration was perfection. The characters drew me into their lives. Left me with the sweet nostalgia of many years ago.

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Another great family saga

Which character – as performed by Cassandra Campbell – was your favorite?

I think I enjoyed Nella's mother and father the most, with the thick Italian accent. Cassandra gives the Italian accent a realistic slant and she is easy to listen to. Her voice is soft yet crisp.

Any additional comments?

Queen of the Big Time was an odd title for this book as it referred to a contest that the protagonist's niece entered rather late in the book. I don't think I would have given the book that title. More likely, I would have named the book The Nella Blouse Factory. (a la The Supreme Macaroni Company). I really enjoy Adriana Trigiani's writing style and really love the Italian families she portrays. From the epilogue and interview at the end of this audiobook, it is clear that this book was taken from Ms. Trigiani's own family story. My only criticism of this book is that this is the third book written by the author in which the protagonists's husband dies. (The Shoemaker's Wife, Brava Valentine are two others)
It's almost at the point where I would expect it in the next book I read. However, the characters are very real and well developed. Overall, this was a very enjoyable read.