Saturday, December 24, 2011

Restoration

Restoration, by Olaf Olafsson.

Later, when she lay in the clinic at San Martino, listening to the cicada singing outside the window and watching Melchiorre's shadow by the door, it occurred to her that she had begun to change that evening. It took a long time; there was more than one veil over her eyes, and they were not stripped away all at once but little by little, until she finally saw Robert Marshall in a cold, pitiless light. And that was when she committed the crime, in the light that spared no one and was devoid of all beauty or forgiveness.

I had not heard of the author Olaf Olafsson before reading this novel, but it seems that he is a "jack of all spades," so to speak. He has a degree in physics from Brandeis University, and is the founder of Sony Interactive Entertainment (a division of Sony). He is also currently one of the "top media executives in the country" and is the Executive Vice President, International and Corporate Strategy, of Time Warner. I'm not sure when he finds the time to write, but this endeavor, Restoration, was interesting, once I figured out the characters and which voice was whose.

The character jumps from first-person POV, that of Alice's, to Kristin's, in the third-person. Alice lives in the countryside of Italy with her husband, who has recently disappeared, and formerly with her son, Giovanni, who died at a young age of meningitis. The time period is World War II, and Alice has taken in some children who would otherwise have been refugees. Kristin, injured from a train blast, stumbles upon their cozy household, and of course is taken in as well. Alice is hiding a painting for the Germans, which was given to them from the renowned restoration expert Robert Marshall, and is said to be a painting by one the greats. What they don't know, however, is that the painting is a fake: Kristin, an art student of Marshall's and later his lover, painted it in the style of the greats to fool Marshall and get back at him - he said he was going to leave his wife and never did. The painting was taken from her before she was able to explain it to him, however, and experts confirmed it to be by the great painter and not her.

Kristin hasn't told Alice any of this, but when her leg heals, she starts to look for the painting at the villa. Soon, however, the Germans have taken over the villa as the "front line," and they are all forced to evacuate to avoid the bombings.

This novel was a little confusing to me at first because it jumps around so much - from past to present - and is also written in two POV's (first-person, in Alice's voice, and third person, for Kristin's) - but once I figured it out it was easier to read. Anyone who is interested in novels based on / taking place during World War II will enjoy this book, and indeed, the story it tells is a tangled web of lies, hope, and complicated relationships. It reminded me a little bit of the movie The Red Violin, except that it was about a painting, in that it followed the painting from when Kristin created it to the very end of the novel, when she sees it again after many years.

3 stars out of 5.

Restoration will be in bookstores on February 7, 2012.

*Author's Note: I was given a copy of this novel to review. All opinions listed, however, are my own.

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