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Unveiling Hardcover – April, 2004
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From Publishers Weekly
This dark and lovely first novel from Wolfe, the executive editor of Image ("A Journal of the Arts and Religion"), uses themes of faith, brokenness and redemption to create a memorable work of fiction. Dr. Rachel Piers specializes in restoring old panel paintings, but she's failed to strip away the dirt and damage done to her personal life. Divorce, an incestuous adolescent rape and a forced abortion have left her soul sick, her idealism shatteredas fragile and scarred as the artwork she refurbishes. When Rachel travels to Rome to direct the restoration of an old triptych amid politics of the art world that threaten her integrity, she dares to hope she might learn to love and trust again. With beautiful prose and an extensive, fresh vocabulary that doesn't succumb to showiness, Wolfe guides the reader through the mechanics of art restoration while chronicling Rachel's emotional and spiritual healing. As she works on the triptych, "Her fierce joy in stripping away the accumulated detritus of dirt and varnish, or uncovering, inch by inch, section by section, original pigment and the miracle of form, sprang from a passionate need to recover something blighted, something lost through human neglect and the obscuring overlay of time." The amount of technical art restoration facts and description occasionally feels a bit weighty, and one of the few missteps is the unnecessary incorporation of September 11 references. Nonetheless, this is an excellent novel that should appeal to both general literary readers interested in the art world and readers of faith.
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*Starred Review* Wolfe's Unveiling is about Rachel Piers, an art restorer who takes a job in Italy to work on a mysterious panel about the Crucifixion. Rachel is recently divorced from a dilettante who abused her soul much as her stepfather once abused her body. She's a wounded spirit, disengaged from life, though still obsessive about her work. She meets her Italian equivalent in Donati, a gentle man with whom she strips away centuries of varnish and weathering from their assigned masterpiece. In the process both strip away their own hurts and longings, finding love as well as spiritual ballast in a quiet, subtle love story deeply grounded in the restoration of art John Mort
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
Top customer reviews
The investigation of the mystery of the painting's origin isn't given the space it deserves, and is summed up in a presentation by the main character at the end, giving too much resolution without much tension having been built up.
Two of the characters (Pia and Nigel) are more like parts of the setting that happen to have lines than realized characters. I would have liked to follow Pia to Belgium and hear about the process of her research, rather than having it summed up in Rachel's presentation at the end, and Nigel could have been dispensed with without any loss at all.
The details of art restoration were interesting, and the moral point about the importance of great works of religious art being retained as objects of devotion rather than converted into cultural commodities is a good one. But a good writing workshop could have made this a much stronger and more enjoyable novel.