THE CONVERSION by Joseph Olshan


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Time and sexual boundaries are transcended in Olshan’s eighth novel (In Clara’s Hands, 2001, etc.).

Thirty-one-year-old writer Russell Todaro has moved from New York to Paris to work as a freelance translator and to find inspiration for his own writing. When Edward Cannon, his older lover and an accomplished poet, dies of a heart attack after an armed robbery attempt in their hotel room, Russell finds Ed’s unfinished memoir. He must decide whether to honor his friend’s wishes and prevent publication or hand it over to Ed’s grasping executrix back in New York. In the year they were together Russell never fully returned Ed’s love, rather treating him as an esteemed friend and mentor. Before his death, Ed had introduced Russell to Marina, whose prize-winning novel set during World War II describes Jews hidden in a Tuscan convent who later convert to Catholicism. Awaiting the outcome of Ed’s inquest and badgered by his executrix into admitting he has the memoir, Russell visits Marina’s villa in Tuscany. A break-in at her estate and the death of her husband hint at a political drama that is loosely sketched and never clarified. Meanwhile, Russell’s decision to destroy Ed’s memoir does not offer the emotional release Russell seeks. Only when he lets go of the past—and receives an unexpected gift—can he fulfill his promise as a writer. The relationships between Olshan’s male characters are sultry and multifaceted, mapped across a richly delineated landscape of intimacy and yearning.

European sensibility and sensuality add new dimensions to Olshan’s writing.

Pub Date: April 15th, 2008
ISBN: 978-0-312-37391-7
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 2008


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