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Restoration

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3.55  ·  Rating details ·  680 Ratings  ·  125 Reviews
Raised within a cosseted circle of British ex-pats in Florence, Alice shocked her family and friends when she married Claudio. Despite the protests of both families, they found a crumbling villa on a windy Tuscan hilltop, called San Martino, and they poured themselves into the house and the land–and what they built together bound them together. They had a son. They finishe ...more
Paperback, 336 pages
Published February 7th 2012 by Ecco (first published 1994)
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Violet wells
I imagine researching and organising your material would be one of the most exciting challenges of writing a historical novel. Obviously this wasn’t the case for Olaf Olafsson. He decided to save time and energy by simply shoplifting wholesale the fabulous memoirs of Iris Origo. He steals her house and her wartime experiences to give his novel its structure and heart and then, to add insult to injury, invents an adultery on her part to commercially liven things up. I suppose if you have no knowl ...more
Cynthia
Jan 13, 2012 rated it really liked it
The first and last chapters of “Restoration” are absolute gems with Olafsson’s painterly descriptions of Italian countryside and his portrayals of human anguish. The first chapter lures you into the story, the last chapter satisfies. This is not to say the story lags in between. It doesn’t but there is a dreamlike cadence to how things unfold, for instance one of the main characters isn’t named until about a third of the way through the book. Other characters are only glimpsed through memories. ...more
Trish
Jul 01, 2012 rated it really liked it
Now this is a great summer read. Not only is it beautiful to hold (Ecco imprint, thick deckled pages, only 336 pages in a 5-5/15 x 8 inch format), but the words just made me want to slow down and savor. The characters in this book were making their dreams come alive: a wealthy woman uses her ample funds to get her hands dirty restoring an old villa on a wind-swept mountain in Tuscany, and a penniless, parentless artist finds her calling restoring the paintings of old masters in Rome.

Cochineal,
...more
Suzanne
Jan 29, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, art
This is a story about love, betrayal, loss and forgiveness. The main character, Alice, is a British ex-pat who grew up in Florence, and married Claudio, a titled Italian, albeit a poor one. Together they rescue a farm in Tuscany and raise their young son there. As World War II engulfs Italy, Alice begins a foolish affair and was busy seeing to her own needs when her young son falls ill and dies. Despairing, she believes she is being punished for her misdeeds, but still longs to reconcile with he ...more
Susan (aka Just My Op)
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 on ...more
Trina
Sep 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
Sometimes, all you want from a book is to be taken to another place. The setting for this novel is an Italian villa that's been restored - unfortunately, it soon finds itself on the front lines of WWII as the Germans retreat into the steep valley surrounding it, with the Allies right on their heels. Complicating the picture, so to speak, is a meticulously "restored" masterpiece by Caravaggio that becomes a bargaining chip between the two main characters: an Icelandic girl and the English woman w ...more
Jill
Mar 02, 2012 rated it really liked it
With a title like RESTORATION, it’s no surprise that at the center of the story, there is a restoration…in this case, a forgery of an esteemed Caravaggio painting by a young talented artist named Kristin who is spurned in love by her master.

That master restorer, Marshall, a man of dubious ethics, says: “No canvas lasts more than two centuries. If left alone, they all turn into dust. Those who think that art restoration is simply dusting and cleaning exhibit incredible naivete. Interpreters, Kri
...more
Virginia Campbell
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 c ...more
Holly Weiss

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.
...more
Laura
Jan 25, 2012 rated it it was ok
Like Far From Here, this is told in a combination of first and third person; the first person episodes are either a diary entry or conversation between Alice and her husband Claudio, who disappeared shortly after their son died. Set in Tuscany during the waning days of World War II, the title has several meanings - the restoration of the villa and farms at San Martino, the restoration work Kristin does on paintings, the restoration of peace, and possibly the restoration of Alice's life to someth ...more
Valentina
Feb 20, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This book took me by surprise. I really did not expect something so deep and moving, something so well written. I’d actually been reluctant to pick it up, because I thought it would be one of those books focused solely on World War II, but I’m so glad I did end up giving it a chance.
There are two interconnecting plot lines: Kristin’s and Alice’s. The book goes back and forth in time (think The English Patient, not Time Traveler’s Wife) in such a masterful way that the reader is never confused. O
...more
Ann
Oct 19, 2012 rated it liked it
This book’s World War II setting (an Italian farm where orphans and partisans are cared for) would have been enough for me, especially since this author wonderfully describes the Tuscan countryside. This is a beautifully written book, but I didn’t need subplots about Nazis hiding stolen art or multiple unfaithful marriages. I also didn’t need two interlocking stories written in first and third person (sometimes about the same person) that seemed to muddy the plot with too many coincidences.

Histo
...more
Kevin McAllister
Nov 30, 2011 rated it liked it
Restoration is a novel of two women both being haunted by mistakes from their pasts, brought together by circumstances to a villa in Tuscany, which eventually turns into the frontline in a battle between the retreating Germans and The Allied forces during World War Two. There's a passage very close to the end that sums up the novel very well for me. "But our problems were trivial in the scheme of things. We can see that now that the world lies in ruins." Both these women were in the middle of a ...more
Meg
Jul 06, 2012 rated it really liked it
It is really interesting that this book was written by Olaf Olafsson. Here is an Icelandic man writing (very convincingly) in the voices of two women, one English, one Icelandic, in Italy, a setting far outside of his own experience. I was surprised to read the book jacket after finishing it - I had assumed it had to be a woman. I was also surprised to discover that he is the Vice President of Time Warner. How does he have the time to write books? In his spare time!? Maybe it's that Icelandic ef ...more
Jaylia3
Feb 09, 2012 rated it really liked it
A picturesquely described Italian countryside is the setting for this WWII novel of love and betrayal, as the Allied armies are gaining ground, and the farmhouse where most of the action takes place is gradually but inexorably becoming the front line of battle. There are two main characters, both women, Kristin an artist and restorer of damaged but valuable paintings, who is Icelandic like the author, and Alice, an English expatriate who married an Italian man against her family’s wishes and the ...more
snohvatica
Olafson lepim jezikom i stilom gradi pricu oko jednog postupka jedne osobe. Svaki lik romana na neki nacin biva dotaknut tim postupkom, sto je mene samo podsetilo na to da se u svetu nista ne desava izolovano i bez posledica. Ono sto mi se posebno svidelo jesu opisi unutrasnjih zivota i psiholoski "profili" svakog od likova. Iako zahvaceni ratom zivoti svih njih se nastavljaju i svakodnevne stvari i prosli problemi nisu zaboravljeni i ostavljeni po strani vec gledamo kako ih svako ponaosob obrad ...more
Flo
Aug 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Restoration is the 3rd novel I have read by Olaf Olafsson and each is well written in a style that is so beautiful, so hypnotizing, I could not let go. Alice, a wealthy young Englishwoman marries Claudio, a titled Italian and they buy a delapidated farm in Tuscany which Claudio calls paradise and which they restore to a working farm.
In Florence, Kristin, an art student from Iceland, begins to work for a married, charismatic art dealer, restoring paintings and falls in love with him. The 2nd Worl
...more
Stacy
Jan 09, 2018 rated it it was ok
From all the positive reviews on the cover I expected much more from this novel. However I never felt the war passages seemed realistic and none of the characters intrigued me. It seemed as though it was written a bit hastily, perhaps as a screenplay for a movie. I found plot gaps and unanswered questions that seemed careless.. It might make a nice movie but novel is unsatisfying.
Debra Martin
Jan 25, 2012 rated it really liked it
This is the story of two women, who even though they've never met, their lives will become intricately connected. English ex-patriate Alice shocks her family when she marries an older Italian, Claudio Orsini, and together they buy a rundown villa in Tuscany. While Alice initially immerses herself in the restoration of the villa, surrounding buildings and farmer tenants, it doesn’t take long before she misses the British social life in Rome. However, her actions at one of these parties will chang ...more
Yoka
Oct 06, 2013 rated it really liked it
De weg naar San Martino is voor mij het eerste boek dat ik van deze schrijver lees. Olaf Olafsson werd internationaal bekend met zijn roman “Vergiffenis”. Zijn nieuwe boek speelt zich af in de eerste helft van de twintigste eeuw. Alice, een meisje uit een gefortuneerd Brits gezin en woonachtig in Florence, trouwt zeer tegen de zin van haar ouders met Claudio. Samen met deze zoon van een eenvoudige boer verhuist ze naar San Martino. Daar betrekken ze een vervallen villa die ze door hard werken we ...more
Sandie
With exquisite pacing, Olaf Olafsson's RESTORATION combines a bit of WWII history with an unforgettable cast to weave a web of intrigue that involves the exploitation of two women by one charming and manipulative man

Alice and Kristin are the two women used and abused by the married Robert Marshall, an art restorer whose avarice leads him to willingly collaborate with the Germans in their accumulation and concealment of art during their occupation of Italy. Marshall lures the love-struck Kristin
...more
Julie
Feb 22, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, own, vine
Among the steep hills of Italy, a remote villa and its inhabitants experience the encroaching war as Germans retreat and Allies advance upon their idyllic rural life. Alice, the mistress of the villa, is harboring a secret while tending to refugee children and supervising the wellbeing of her tenants in her husband’s absence. Kristin, a gifted artist and restoration specialist, has made her way to the estate in pursuit of Alice’s secret. Their two stories collide in a narrative filled with regre ...more
Diane
Jul 05, 2014 rated it did not like it
I was pretty disappointed with this novel. It sounded interesting - Alice, an Englishwoman, marries the son of an Italian landowner, and begins restoring a Tuscan villa. During World War II, Alice grows restless and has a relationship that opens her up to blackmail from an unscrupulous art dealer named Robert Marshall. He forces her to hide a priceless painting by Caravaggio, in her villa. Meanwhile, Alice opens her home to refugees, orphans, and wounded allied soldiers. To complicate matters fu ...more
Susan Johnson
Feb 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This novel literally took my breath away in its luminosity and elegant writing. This is the story of two women, Alice and Kristin, who lead very different lives but cross paths at several important times. They are not friends but their fates cross and the story alternates between the two women.
Alice grew up in a circle of British ex-pats in Florence in the 1920's. She fell in love with a titled man and they run off together to start a new life. They discover a rundown estate of 3500 acres in the
...more
Almira
Jul 28, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Well, it's been more than a few days.

Time frame spans from 1920's to 1940's.

Alice Orsini leaves the exclusive circle of British ex-pats, marries the son of an Italian, minor landowner and takes on the task of restoring the crumblin villa - San Martino.

Robert Marshall is a renowned dealer of Renaissance art and has known Alice, and her indiscretion. He "blackmails" Alice into hiding a priceless Caravaggion, which he sold to the Germans.

Kristin, an art "prodigy" who can restore any painting, who
...more
Michelle
Aug 05, 2012 rated it liked it
The book is set in the peri-WWII timeframe in Italy. The story centers around two women, each with a secret involving relationships. Alice is an English ex-pat who surprises her family and peers by marrying an Italian. They buy a farm property in rough shape and work together to restore it, and have a young son. Alice becomes restless with her situation, missing the social aspects of her former life. On a visit to her mother, she encounters a childhood sweetheart and they begin a passionate affa ...more
Aleksandar
Nov 21, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Moglo bi se reći da je ovaj roman, uz mnogo drugih kvaliteta, svojevrsna meditacija odnosa umetničke i faktičke istine. Bez linearnog toka pripovedanja, sa promenljivom narativnom vizurom, događaji se nižu unutrašnjom logikom doživljaja aktera. Veoma složena kompozicija koja čini da priči prilazite iznutra, subjektivnom logikom razgovora sa njenim likovima. Ovo čini čitaoca veoma motivisanim. Verovatno i u svakodnevnom životu, kada ste u susretu sa zagonetkom priče koju odgonetate, ne sledite li ...more
Laine Cunningham
Jun 30, 2014 rated it did not like it
This work started out well with the first chapter. It provided an intense moment, showed the characters' personalities well, and promised much. Then it collapsed. The narrative switched into second person, which is technically very difficult to maintain.

The narrative also became much less compelling. The character's backstory wasn't compelling, and the writing wasn't strong enough to make up for it. It became confusing due to the number of people mentioned; without any direction from the author
...more
Vivian Valvano
May 23, 2012 rated it really liked it
I am so glad that my friend Rosanne recommended this novel to me. Its focus is late-World War II Italy, but there are frequent flashbacks to earlier years. I don't think Italy gets as much attention in fiction as other WW II locales; it gets more attention in film. I'd put this novel right alongside "Two Women" as meaningful tales of war. The narration beautifully combines several things: realistic (sometimes heartbreaking and sometimes ennobling) war details; complex personal stories, including ...more
Sterlingcindysu
Feb 06, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: arc
I interrupted this book to read others, so don't think that it took me the whole month to read it. Olafsson really packs alot into this (btw, I have to check if that's his real name). There's art and WWI and remodeling an Italian villa (shades of house hunters international here). I think he could have either expanded it at least another 100 pages, or eliminated one of the subplots and it still would have worked fine. If you're stretched for time, this is a great book to read and feel smart abou ...more
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Olaf Olafsson was born in Reykjavik, Iceland in 1962. He studied physics as a Wien Scholar at Brandeis University. He is the author of three previous novels, The Journey Home, Absolution and Walking Into the Night, and a story collection, Valentines. His books have been published to critical acclaim in more than twenty languages. He is the recipient of the O. Henry Award and the Icelandic Literary ...more
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