From Scotland’s churches to France, the Vatican, and back to her desk in New York: Adriana Trigiani (pictured) traveled the world to study and write about a family of artisan jewelers for her latest novel, The Good Left Undone.
The book, which comes out in April 2022, tells the life story of an Italian woman named Domenica Cabrelli, whose family is known for its exquisite jewelry, Trigiani says. To tell this story, Trigiani says she did extensive research on what it takes to make jewelry at this level, including taking classes herself to understand what her main character’s family achieves with gold, silver, and diamonds.
Trigiani, a New York Times best-selling author, has written more than 20 books as well as screenplays. She was directing a movie in Scotland when the idea for The Good Left Undone struck her. She was visiting a Glasgow church and noticed a wedding taking place. After the ceremony, the church’s priest struck up a conversation with her.
Upon learning of her background as a descendant of immigrants from the Italian Alps, the priest invited her to the church’s garden, where she discovered a memorial for the Italian detainees’ lives lost on the SS Arandora Star, which was sunk by a German U-boat in July 1940. This memorial and its story inspired Trigiani, who says she wanted to explore how such an event might affect individuals and families across generations.
The resulting book is one of her best, she says. The story has themes that everyone can understand—love, loss, and grief—but it also seeks to explain how jewelry is made, how diamonds are sourced, and how traditions are passed down among family. Family itself plays a huge role in the storytelling, Trigiani says.
“I wanted to write something about the things people think they know about their families, but, in reality, they don’t know at all,” Trigiani says. “We like to think life began when we showed up; nothing else existed before us. But that’s not true.”
How family businesses exist over generations also was fascinating to Trigiani, who says she hoped to dispel myths around jewelry and family jewelry businesses.
“A lot of people assumed the town jeweler was rich. What they didn’t know is that they often were guns for hire—they didn’t own that stuff they worked with. They were commissioned,” Trigiani says. “It also takes many years to get it right. There’s a sense of history that comes with jewelry.… They are standing on centuries of history and craftsmanship.”
As a result of this book and the people she met while preparing it, Trigiani says she has even more respect for how jewelry is made and the beauty found in each piece.
“They’re artisans. They take raw materials and create a thing of beauty out of it,” Trigiani says. “It’s a creation that honors the person who wears it, and that’s a really big deal. It isn’t just an engagement ring or an anniversary ring or a chain that has a beautiful gem on it. It represents thousands of years of intent.”
Top: Best-selling author Adriana Trigiani sought to explore the world of fine jewelry through her latest book, including taking classes and making jewelry herself as part of the research (all photos courtesy of Dutton/Penguin Publishing Group).@jckmagazine
Follow JCK on Twitter: @jckmagazine
Follow JCK on Facebook: @jckmagazine