Synopses & Reviews
, "the mute woman." In a country rocked by scandal and corruption, inhabitants of the idyllic city of Urbino, Italy, birthplace of Raphael, are more concerned with a sudden outbreak of miracles than with politics. But what unspeakable secret lies hidden in Raphael's enigmatic painting? Its restoration will drive a living mute to a shocking act of violence and spark an investigation into a nearly forgotten war crime and a series of events that will shatter the silence gripping this community forever.
Both a mesmerizing thriller and a passionate exploration of the power of truth to effect reconciliation and restore faith, Waking Raphael spins a tantalizing web of silence and lies to recreate an Italy where the romantic and the violent, the comic and the tragic, are spellbindingly interwoven.
"Forbes, who set her first two literary thrillers in lush, fascinating India, turns to Europe in her excellent third, to the idyllic Italian town of Urbino, birthplace of the painter Raphael. Recently divorced, Charlotte Penton is the latest in a long line of repressed Englishwomen who travel to Italy in Charlotte's case, to supervise the restoration of a Raphael portrait, La Muta and find their lives transformed. Decidedly unrepressed is beautiful, not terribly smart Donna Ricco, a member of a film company hired to document the restoration. Outside Urbino lies the abandoned hamlet of San Rocco, whose only inhabitant, the crazy Muta, lives secretly in a ruined cellar. Charlotte brushes up against the mystery of the WWII disappearance of San Rocco's residents and finds herself, along with Donna, drawn into the dark questions surrounding it. The old men of Urbino spend their days plotting in cafes, watching Charlotte and Donna stumble toward truths the men don't want known. The horror of the past is eventually exposed by a chain of events beginning with the slashing of the freshly restored Raphael painting. The secret is of killing and worse: 'All those foul acts of which men are capable when God turns his face away from mankind.' The characters are richly drawn, from the suave count to the pig farmer. Entranced readers will find the secrets of San Rocco uncovered, layer by layer, not unlike Charlotte's painstaking restoration of Raphael's painting. There's more than a touch of magic realism involved, interwoven with fascinating facts about history, religion, painting, miracles and more. This novel will captivate and delight." Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Deftly exploring connections between art, religion, and politics, Forbes layers her mystery with lush imagery and palpable human drama....For fans of Perez-Reverte or Iain Pears." Booklist
"Forbes uses the conventions of the romance and the thriller...to illuminate the mysterious connections between past and present and bring a pair of ardent and uncommonly appealing heroines to life." Kirkus Reviews
"With touches of magic realism, Forbes...adds mystery to [this] novel....Vivid scenery and richly detailed characters add depth." Library Journal
"Magic, religion, art and history weave together to make a compelling story." BookReporter.com
About the Author
Leslie Forbes is the author of four award-winning travel books and the internationally bestselling novels Bombay Ice, a Sunday Times bestseller, and Fish, Blood, & Bone, which was nominated for the Orange prize. She lives in London.