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By A.G. Harmon


Raising the Near Dead

An art restorer in search of a person restorer.

Art, we are told, will withstand the passage of time. It will live on well past its creator, well past its patron, well past its first audience, and most satisfyingly, well past the philistines who do not appreciate it. Art will survive. Ageless. Immutable. Untouchable as the "unravish'd bride of quietness"-ever close, yet ever out of reach.

And none of that is true, or at least not wholly true. If art in theory is perpetual, art in actuality is not. Like all else, it succumbs to time. By neglect, abuse, or even-ironically-by too much love, art too can die. But another maxim, truer than the legend of art's immortality, is that art embodies the human soul and, like it, is capable of restoration, of being saved. Such an enterprise requires a physician of precise skills-intelligence as well as humility, courage as well as honesty-that must be drawn upon all at once in order to bring what is nearly lost back to life again.

Rachel Piers, the protagonist of Suzanne Wolfe's engrossing novel Unveiling, shows just how demanding and intricate a task this is, especially for one who is in need of rescue herself. A conservator of medieval art, Rachel has been lent by her museum to a large corporation that is funding an important project: the restoration of a mysterious medieval triptych located in an obscure Roman church. Her task is all the more difficult because she has lost something crucial to her work-a proper understanding of what she is about-and gained something deadly to it: a carapace that shields her from life. And all this, is turn, is ultimately traceable to a violation in her past, an incident Rachel's own mother has sought to suppress.

Despite her mother's efforts, or perhaps because of them, the secret memory works its way to the fore of Rachel's mind as she labors through a beautifully realized but crumbling Roman landscape. Rachel views the canvas of the ancient city-faded-ochre piazzas, worn pedestals, stacked bistro chairs-and cannot see roses without also seeing ...

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