In Restoration readers’ comments

Here are readers’ comments from The People’s Book Prize


One is drawn quickly into the unfolding events with a sense of intimacy and a rich atmosphere.


A great book. Foreigners living in Italy will recognize the situations, the atmosphere, the multitude of details that make up that undefinable feeling of Tuscany, which cannot be explained but only perceived.


“In Restoration” by Valerie Thornhill opens up a vivid window of Italian scenery , involving me in the personal dramas of her characters,like a living theatre. Congratulations to the author,as she succeeds in presenting her story, or stories in the story, as if she herself has lived through it all!


Wonderful to read after a recent trip to Tuscany!


A multifaceted, intergenerational story of change (both good and bad) as told from the viewpoint of a mother who has lost a child in a tragic accident – rich in detail as a English family copes with its loss by restoring a Tuscan cottage – a wonderful summer read with many insights to be gained


The book ‘In restoration’ is very well written and what I like more is the characters, even the secondary characters are very well described and ‘very Italian’ . This reveals that the author knows very well Italians people, both the bad side and the good side. The environment is also very well described and the plot is very involving, therefore I strongly recommend this book.


The authenticity of the English character and the vast knowledge of the Italian background and cultural differences of the two is brilliantly captured.


Written from the heart, and with powerful observation, this book abounds in colourful characters who bring the story of Tuscany alive.


This book captures the riches of italy – the beauty of the landscape and the passion of its people. At its heart lies a depth of human understanding and compassion which maked the book uplifting giving one the “feel good” factor!


This book is written in vivid and evocative prose from someone who has truly lived and experienced Italy and the authenticity shines through.


Even though living in India – a different landscape and subcontinent – the book was thoroughly enjoyed by many of us at South Delhi Polytechnic for Women.It is not a run-of-the-mill story that many Brits write about visiting Italy. It has twist to it and some descriptions of landscape, scenery and human emotions are touching.


Haunting and beautiful. Wonderful evocation of the Italian landscape. A book by a writer who has lived.


That’s it. I’m going to Tuscany!


As an Italian, I find this novel both moving and sensitively true in its depiction of Italians and the changes in Italy since World War II. It is an exciting and moving story.


Restoration infuses the reader with landscapes and the emotional journies of its’ characters. To read it is to live it.


I really enjoy the way Valerie brings her landscapes alive.


I’m already looking forward to Ms Thornhill’s next novel!


An atmospheric book


A beautifully lyrical and evocative book with quite accurate anthropological observations about the life of a valley. Deserves to be read by many.


Astounding how the contrasting mellow English landscape and Tuscany’s drier yet brightly coloured one come to life. A compelling story, a vivid evocation of an historical period!


In Restoration explores the powerful topics of loss and recovery in the context of a beautiful valley in Tuscany, itself experiencing epochal change. Enduring pleasures for the reader include Maria’s story of peasant life in the chestnut woods and Olivia’s turbulent relationship with Gianni, stone mason and house-restorer, set against the richly drawn Italian landscape.


A truly original, modern novel.


A super book on every level. The personal domestic drama was always gripping, and I particularly liked the way in which the locations and their histories defined the human beings. A novel as ‘multi-faceted’ as the necklace which Paul gave to Olivia.


I love the book and I love the place


A wonderful book


Brilliant book!


A moving, refreshing and surprisingly optimistic book.


Makes Italy come alive in ones imagination.


This book was made even more fascinating by the knowledge that it was based on the village near Cortona where I have a house. All through the book I kept getting the feeling that the setting was familiar & was delighted that my instincts were right. A great mix of fiction & ‘historical’ fact.


An out-of-the ordinary novel. What a pleasure to experience the lives of people with whom we feel real connection and empathy in a context so emotionally intelligent, visually evocative.


Such a pleasure to read beautiful english and see how an assembly of well chosen words can make such an evocative story.


A beautiful read, which I was grateful for after having to contact the writer directly to get a copy here in Canada. With my love for travel and all things Italian, this book allowed me to become a part of the story, a feeling I always enjoy. You just don’t want the story to end. A must read.


This is a memorable book, densely packed with detail and visual description. It is also full of interest with great characters.


Valerie’s observations of the touch and smell of the land and its people are spot on.


A hugely enjoyable but also thought-provoking novel – it provides a fascinating glimpse of a period before Italy, and Tuscany in particular, became so familiar in the popular imagination.


I especially enjoyed the atmosphere of the Tuscan setting and became very intrigued with the house in particular. I enjoyed trying to visualise the place in my mind. I became very involved with the protagonists’ vicissitudes. A very good read.


Valerie Thornhill’s use of fiction as a distancing device enables her to transform the typically upbeat treatment of ‘my house in Italy’ narratives, into a realistic treatment of the motives for, the cost exact-ed by, and the rewards eventually gained, from such adventures. A great merit of her book is its accurate reflection of cultural and economic change in Italy since Word War 2.


Excellent read


This book beautifully evokes the effects of a particular physical terrain on the emotional terrain within a suffering person. Finding solace in a particular atmosphere is described with convincing and perceptive, subtle detail. In Restoration is an involving and ultimately satisfying quest for balm. Gently haunting.


A beautifully written and evocative account of a woman’s journey.


This is a fascinating and unusual novel with a wealth of human incidents. Devious aristocrats, Etruscan tomb robbers as well as the rivalries and tensions between the local priest and the communist town councillors provide a rich theatre of comedy and skulduggery, skilfully reflecting the bigger picture of post-war Italy. It’s a really good read.



Readers’ reviews of first edition, In Restoration

With its sensitive interplay between physical setting and human relationships, Valerie Thornhill’s In Restoration  contains passages of emotional power and brilliance in writing which make her first novel a highly promising work.

Martyn Goff, British literary critic


In Restoration is a moving and subtle novel in which the central voice explores both historical and personal losses which bind her British family to Italy, and reaches out to find inspiration in the Etruscan past, in the partisan experience of the farming community, and in the house she undertakes against the odds to restore to a family home. The opening is quite brilliant in its brief conjuring of a whole historical period.

Elinor Shaffer, British  literary historian and critic


This is a very three-dimensional and visual book – the scenery and actions are beautifully described and intensely felt. It is a stand-alone book that reveals a deeply involved relationship with Italy, her people, landscapes, art and history. The sense of place is acute. It feeds the eye as well as the mind. Valerie Thornhill’s is a fresh and distinctive new voice.

Erica Wilkinson, British design historian


Books featuring the restoration of houses in Tuscany or Provence have become an Anglo-Saxon literary genre but what sets apart this account is both its authenticity – this is the real Tuscany, acutely observed – and the deeply felt quality of experience.

Judith Harris, American journalist and historian


I began reading In Restoration on the return flight to the U.S. after my first visit to Italy and did not put it down during the entire trip until I’d completed it. I found it very evocative … while the complex relationships and revelations at times brought tears to my eyes.

Susan Quick, American museum curator


This is a book about love – for Olivia’s absent and unknown father; for her mother ‘wise through lost hope’; and the heartbreaking, aching love for her dead son Tim, intermingled with the extreme joy of Dan, witnessing his ‘journey out of childhood’… It is also about betrayal, understanding, acceptance and the healing power of landscape and a house… Above all, it is about human emotions, intensely experienced and sensitively and truthfully revealed.

Silvia Gavuzzo-Stewart, Italian art historian


Against the contrasting settings of England’s quiet colours and Tuscany’s vivid sunburst yellows and radiant skies, this tangled web of family loyalties, feuds, tragedy, loss, loves and passion is played out with consummate skill. This finely wrought novel is a compelling read.

Kathleen Tarrant,British  teacher


In Restoration is not only entertaining, but also full of emotions and ideas… To me the very best part is Olivia’s journal… and I especially loved Mia Pia’s description of life in the mountains, some beautiful writing there. Gianni is a wonderful character. He really steps off the page.

Lynn Ftzwater, American connoisseur and explorer


Nature plays the leading role in Valerie Thornhill’s book.  Passages as fresh as plein-air sketches evocatively capture the changing landscape, in turn informing and revealing the complex personalities that populate the densely woven fabric of her story… Our involvement in the experience of loss and recovery that permeates the novel is such that on closing the book we feel as though we are parting with friends.

Francesco Nevola, Italian art historian


Valerie Thornhill looks with both a poet’s and a novelist’s eye at people and places – at the landscapes of central Italy, and the reality of life and work amongst them through a period of economic and cultural change,  conditioned by the heroine’s experiences of loss and transformation.

Robert Cockcroft, British poet and scholar


I absolutely loved it!  Reading it has brought back so many enjoyable memories of Tuscany….I found  the characters enthralling, loved the story of the search for the house, and felt that the way that the Italian and English stories were interwoven was clever and engaging.

Margaret McIntyre, Australian physiotherapist


In Restoration was a wonderful companion during my two weeks by the sea.  I lived, literally, a Tuscan life through the various characters and their interactions and was completely caught up with the plot… A true tour de force!

Cordelia Richards, American traveller


Valerie Thornhill’s work comes from the heart; it is expressed in an intense vocabulary of emotions, events and images that glow like richly woven tapestries. Her narrative threads, compulsive in their own right, are enriched by the tints and dyes of her phraseology and acutely observed minutiae, woven with apposite precision and understanding.

Robin Horspool,British  artist and writer


I found In Restoration  absorbing, and was pulled into a specific atmosphere that felt like a real reflection of a certain life which I lived in part, alongside the narrator.  It’s like when one remembers a dream, and isn’t sure whether it did in fact occur as one slept, or was something that had actually occurred in ‘real life’…  a strongly communicated and atmospheric unfolding of events.

Samantha Beste, American  artist


I took In Restoration on our annual Lake Superior sailing trip and greatly enjoyed reading it. It is a wonderful book! The descriptions of sights and sounds and smells are so evocative; the history of the area around Cortona (disguised as Montesasso in the book) so interesting; the characters quite wonderful and the story so moving. A fine achievement. Mary Olin, American traveller


I am enjoying In Restoration very much indeed, and I can’t read it fast enough. Michael Cole, Singapore resident


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