Restoration looks compassionately at the life of a young English expatriate who, in the decade preceding World War II, impulsively marries a somewhat older Italian and leaves her privileged life in Florence to help him rebuild a dilapidated villa and estate in the Tuscan countryside. Unsuited for this life, Alice tries to find her niche there. The eventual birth of their son gives her purpose for a while. However, the emotional distance between the couple continues to widen, and Alice succumbs to the lure of her former life and an affair with an old suitor. During this time their young son dies, adding to her guilt over her secret life. The affair does not go unnoticed, however, by a war profiteer dealing in plundered and forged art who forces Alice to hide a valuable painting at her villa in return for his silence. Alice’s husband nevertheless learns of her affair and leaves, presumably to join up with the growing numbers of partisans.
Most of the action takes place in the last year of the war. Partisans, Germans, allies and war profiteers all descend on their peaceful valley, and it is up to Alice, who is consumed with guilt over so many things, to maintain the estate and the safety of the many locals who are dependent on it. Filled with multi-dimensional characters and very eloquently written, this is a novel about the horrors and moral ambiguities of war, the consequences of our decisions, and the search for absolution. Very highly recommended.