A soap-opera romance set against a dramatic backdrop of war, art and the hills of Tuscany, from Olafsson (Valentines, 2007, etc.), a top executive at Time Warner.
“Nothing had happened yet, but she knew it was going to happen and she was sure that he knew too,” reflects a pivotal character on the verge of an affair. And so it happens. At least twice. The intersecting plotlines of two different affairs—and the relationship sparked between two women of different generations and nationalities—provide the complications which this novel resolves in a manner that may not satisfy readers devoted to the genre of historical romance. The title also has multiple references. Toward the end of World War II, a young British woman from a wealthy family, living in Italy, marries an Italian landowner whom her family rejects as beneath her. While searching for a place to settle, she discovers a Tuscan villa in dire need of repair, deemed uninhabitable, and she and her husband begin to restore it. She subsequently has a baby and an affair, and soon it’s her crumbling marriage that is in need of restoration. Meanwhile, a young apprentice painter from Iceland finds work restoring classic canvases from earlier centuries, which the sinister art dealer with whom she’s having an affair sells to the Germans. Ultimately, both women as well as a painting of questionable origin come together at the restored Tuscan villa, which has become something of a haven for children and others escaping the war. Divided loyalties, political and marital, result in “problems [that are] trivial in the scheme of things. We can see now that the world lies in ruins.” The world doesn’t end, though pivotal relationships might.
Though there are some quasi-literary flourishes here, the interior lives of the characters rarely rise above melodramatic cliché.