Reader reviews for Restoration

It’s close to the end of WWII in Italy. The story of a woman whose child has died and husband has left is wrapped up with one of a young painter who has forged a Carivaggio in order to humiliate her married employer who has been stringing her along. The painting is donated to a museum years later and is declared a true Carivaggio. Excellent narrative, well written. 4/7/12
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It has been a while since I have read a book where the overall story was the star, and the characters were necessary components to reach the final page. I enjoyed "Restoration", by Olaf Olafsson, very much. The human failings and strengths of each character add shaded complexities to the horrific World War II story line. The contrast of the settings of glorious Tuscany and the destruction from bombing, killing and marauding invaders is piercing. There is no hero or heroine in this story, but a collection of people and lives that you hope will somehow be set to rights. There are secrets, betrayals, devastating loss, and mysteries which propel the characters toward resolutions and new beginnings. Alice is the wealthy daughter of a class-conscious British family. She shocks everyone by marrying Claudio, an entitled minor-landowner, and moving with him to Tuscany. They begin their life together in a once-beautiful villa in need of much repair. As they work side by side to build a dream life, they try to ignore their underlying differences. A much-loved son, Giovanni, is born, and they find a measure of contentment. However, as the villa and its lands begin to flourish, more and more demands are made upon both Claudio and Alice. He is very much a man of the land and his dependents, and she begins to long for tastes of the life she left behind. She recklessly reaches out for greater fulfillment, and yet she is not without guilt and self-recrimination. The illness and eventual death of young Giovanni pushes Claudio and Alice further apart. Her intended reparation to their marriage is halted by Claudio's strange disappearance. Alice is left to manage the villa and its lands with the help of a devoted family friend, Pritchett. As the war progresses, more and more seekers of sanctuary descend upon Alice and her home. One of them, a young woman named Kristin, comes bearing a serious wound and deep secrets which could gravely affect many in their wake. The effects of our actions and missteps are very much evident here, and those with survivor guilt must find a way to move forward. Chose to live, and live the life you are given. This is a book which will make you want to read it all in one setting. You will want to know how the final pieces of the puzzle fall into place. A very good read. Review Copy Gratis Amazon Vine
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How do we live with the consequences of our actions?Alice, a wealthy English girl, marries Claudio Orsini, ten years her senior, much to the horror of her parents. With naïve optimism, Alice and Claudio purchase a 3500-acre tumbledown Tuscan villa. Having entered a life she knows nothing about, Alice copes by teaching illiterate children.Copenhagen Royal Academy of Art graduate, Kristin, travels to Italy to sketch the great sculptures. Marshall, a restorer of paintings, takes her under his wing. Although talented, she is trusting to a fault.Kristin and Alice’s lives intersect against the backdrop of war-torn Italy in 1944 and the mystique of the Tuscany region. For these women sexual dalliances have dire consequences. Paintings are not the only thing being restored in this novel. Fallible human beings seek redemption. The author spins out his story by examining the remorseful self-examinations of both female characters. The frequently changing points of view reflect the unsettled lives of the characters. The technique is interesting and original, but it slows the pace of the plot. Readers willing to use their imagination and draw their own conclusions will reap rewards by the end of the novel. Olafsson is a writer who makes his readers think rather than feeding his tale to them on a silver platter. The writer of the book jacket synopsis took the opposite approach—telling us more than we’d like to know upfront.Lovers of literary fiction who appreciate the craft of writing will enjoy this book. Those of us who have committed an offense and seek absolution will revel in Olafsson’s tenderness toward his female characters. The book is well titled and well crafted.The Amazon Vine program graciously provided the review copy.Reviewed by Holly Weiss, author of Crestmont.
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There are some wonderful characters in this book in the sense that readers will feel as if they know them well. Even the nefarious, two-faced Robert Marshall whose dealings will the Germans, Alice and especially Kristen showed his true nature. I found him dispicable.Alice's perspective in the story is written in first person as if she were talking to her husband through her diary. Alice's character was very well fleshed out; it was easy to see how she felt guilty about her actions and longed for forgiveness. Of course, nothing will bring back her son, Giovanni, and her absence from home on the night he died will haunt her forever as will the way Claudio kept asking her, "where were you, where were you?"Kristin, a young and very talented Icelandic art student makes her way to Rome and becomes a restorer in Marshall's studio. Her long term involvement with him leads her purposefully to Alice's door just as the war is beginning to encroach closer and closer. I did like the way Olafsson intertwined their stories into a very entertaining whole using the art as a common bond. Olafsson's way with descriptions took me right into the heart of Italy at war. The title is an interesting choice in itself; referring to the restoration of the villa, the art work or even restoring a little peace within oneself. The premise of the book is wonderful; what's not to like about WWII stories, purloined art, broken hearts, recrimination and guilt all in a Tuscany setting? However, my one quibble is I felt that the abrupt shifts in perspectives and time frames took away from the flow of the book. At times I wasn't too sure who was speaking or to whom. Even so, if the flow had been better, this would have been a 4 or 4.5* read but since it felt a little choppy to me, it earns a 3.5* rating.
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A mysterious painting, war-torn Italy, orphans, ex-pats, traitors, death of a beloved, hints of romance – this novel has all the earmarkings of a terrific story. And I did enjoy reading it. Having said that, it fell a little flat for me. If it was trying to be a mystery, there was not enough mystery. For a war story, there was not enough about the war. Ditto for the romance. As literary fiction, it just didn't shine as it could have. For my tastes, the book was going in too many directions at once, and not entirely successful at any one of them. Quite a bit was told as a woman writing in her diary, and while that can work very well for some authors, there was too much telling in this book. All of that together makes for a 3-star rating from me. While I did enjoy reading it, there was nothing to make it memorable. It has received some excellent reviews, though, so don't let me deter you from reading it if it appeals.Thank you to ECCO for providing an advance copy for my review.
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