Another fabulous cover. It evokes memories from a few years ago when my husband and I were staying in the breathtaking hill towns of Tuscany.
RESTORATION, by Olaf Olafsson, takes us back to one of my favorite topics: ww11. We are in Italy this time, seeing the war through the eyes of a young woman named Alice who has shocked her parents by marrying an Italian landowner. Alice and her husband Claudio restore a crumbling villa named San Martino and Alice gives birth to their son. But Alice becomes restless and seeks more.
The sweeping vistas of central Italy all leap off the pages of every single chapter. Olafsson has mastered the sense of place with his spot-on descriptions of the countryside. If you have been to this area, you will be whisked instantly back to this paradise. If you have never been, prepare to add this wonderland to your must-see list.
The characters are sure to take up housekeeping in your mind and refuse to leave. They are smart and full of life. And seem quite human.
This photo was taken from the window of Il Giglio where we stayed while visiting Montelcino a few years ago.
Why Restoration? Not only are we restoring a falling down villa, but we’re also deeply involved in art restoration. Kristin, a young woman from Iceland, becomes the protege of a significant art restorer in Rome just before the war comes stomping into that city. She fled her homeland for a better life. Trained as an artist, she fell into this position. Bits and pieces of information about famous artists such as Caravaggio and Titian are bandied about like lemon drops and we gain a sense of excitement at actually coming across an authentic painting from one of the masters.
While Alice is dealing with a great loss and trying to keep her small part of the world safe, Kristin’s is falling apart. And the Germans are quickly closing the gap. Alice’s San Martino is being used to house everyone from patriots who are on the run to Germans tearing up the soil and tearing down the house. The scenes at San Martino have stayed vivid in my mind. I hated seeing this lovely home and land torn apart. But it was made so real that I could hear the enemy planes flying overhead and vividly imagine the horror and fear the Italian people were experiencing. We, here in America, have not had to fight a war on our soil in our lifetime. It is something I hope will never happen. But Olafsson gives us a true rendition of what it was like. Objects of art are stolen, homes are ruined, people murdered ruthlessly and, everyone is left to fend for themselves and deal with their hunger, dead, and dying.
I don’t want to make light of the story of humanity in this novel. It’s a tale of love, war, and trust.
My advance reading copy came from Ecco, a division of Harper Collins.