“A tremendous talent.”
“Restoration is an elegantly constructed work of fiction, seamlessly moving between the past and the present.”
—Ron Rash, bestselling author of Serena
Acclaimed novelist Olaf Olafsson brings us Restoration, a sweeping story of love tested by human frailty and the terrors and tragedies of war. Departing from the landscapes of his native Iceland—so beautifully evoked in Absolution, The Journey Home, and other previous works—Olafson sets Restoration in the gorgeous Italian hills of Tuscany during the World War Two years of the early 1940s. He captivates readers with a deeply emotional story in the vein of The English Patient by Michael Ondaajte, Ian McEwan’s Atonement, and other contemporary literary classics, spinning a tale of passion, art, war, and betrayal centered around a pair of love triangles and a forged Caravaggio.
There's a lot going on in Olafsson's fourth novel: it's 1944, the Allies are advancing, the Germans retreating, and the front line is moving closer to San Martino, the Tuscan estate that English-born Alice Orsini and her Italian husband have restored. But that's not all: Alice has a guilty conscience and a dead son; her husband has disappeared; a mysterious painting is buried on her property; and she and her staff are running an orphanage and health clinic. The arrival of an Icelandic painter and art restorer should set the stage for fireworks, but doesn't. Despite many possibilities for drama, Olafsson's book falls flat. Alice brings her husband up to date via her diary entries, and an omniscient narrator informs us of everything else, none of it with much flair. The prose is rooted in exposition and explanation, and clich s abound. Olafsson, an executive v-p at Time Warner, based Alice on Iris Origo, an aristocratic Englishwoman married to an Italian whose account of staving off the Germans while sheltering orphans and Allied soldiers at her Tuscan villa was published as War in Val D'Orcia: An Italian War Diary, 1943 1944. By the time the fighting heats up and the plot strands all coalesce, the stake that readers should have in the fates of these characters just isn't there.