Read an excerpt here.
Reading at Four Stories, Boston- Listen
The New York Times Book Review -
"A young American translator staying at an Italian novelist’s Tuscan villa recalls both his recently deceased boyfriend and a better-loved predecessor. Like a Henry James character, the American attempts to navigate European literary and political intrigue."
The Independent (London) -
"The themes behind Olshan's plot – reputation, innocence, the fate of a manuscript and the effects of money – are Jamesian, as is the lingering evocation of the Tuscan palazzo....His real strengths lie in his skill at mapping failed or failing relationships and his almost psychotherapeutic interest in the uncoiling of the tangle of guilt, inhibition and fear of emotional surrender that holds his protagonists back from happiness."
Publishers Weekly -
"Olshan's crisp, satisfying new novel follows American translator and author Russell Todaro, a Jewish gay man who becomes embroiled in the death and ensuing scandal of a former lover. Set against a plush and evocatively described European backdrop, Olshan has produced a compelling story of forbidden desire, deception, religion and love's intoxicating allure.”
Publishers Weekly Interview- Read
The Washington Post, Book World -
In Joseph Olshan's intelligent new novel, his eighth, it's the spirit of Henry James -- of "The Aspern Papers," for instance, and "The Lesson of the Master" -- that hovers over the historic Tuscan villa in which much of the story takes place.
There's much to admire in The Conversion, not least the clean and nuanced elegance of Olshan's prose....[He] explores with depth, as did Henry James, the ways in which all human motives are far from transparent. Olshan's Russell is a terrific creation, a man who wants to be converted by love but is unable to recognize, at least at first, his own disabling complexities.
The Jerusalem Post -
"Hypnotic prose, several layers of intrigue, and a heady Old World setting harmonize to create a melodious and immensely enjoyable story. In Europe, as in The Conversion, history resonates throughout the present. Not only has Olshan captured this perfectly, he portrays the feel of Europe itself. Exquisite descriptions breathe life into the setting, which functions as a vital component -- a character, in and of itself -- of this novel. Under Olshan's scrutiny, the prose sings and the ordinary is rendered divine.".
National Public Radio (All Things Considered) -Listen
"The novel...sparks and glistens. We're really caught up in this tangle of love, honor,memory and future hopes...Joseph Olshan puts us readers in a world that's quite fascinating."
Boston Globe -
"Translation is inexact work, an art not a science, with irresolution built into the endeavor; Olshan ups the ante, and is especially provocative and perceptive when he likens conversion to a seductive brand of self-destruction. His beautifully textured novel is steeped in the modernist search for meaning, with its resolutions ever receding. Good modernist that he is, Olshan has a sure handle on the literary tradition in which he locates himself, and its attendant thematic complexities. He has also woven an unerringly culturally accurate travel mystery that finds a respectable place in the subgenre of Jamesian international novels. It delights and engrosses the reader with a richness of detail, and through its crafting of a beguiling character in the seemingly unsentimental Marina, who demonstrates that "European" combination of practicality, calculation, wisdom, and inscrutability."
Public Radio Interview-Listen
A BookSense Pick - May 2008
"Joseph Olshan's The Conversion is delicately, yet powerfully, rendered, taking the reader through layers, twists, and turns to a surprise ending in a novel of deep and intricate characterization. Beginning in Paris, the characters travel to an Italian villa that is so carefully and evocatively described that it, too, becomes one of Olshan's beautifully drawn characters. A must read."
Vogue Magazine - May 2008
“Joseph Olshan channels Andre Aciman in The Conversion (St. Martins), a vetiver-scented intrigue featuring a young American translator, a dead lover's missing manuscript, and a crumbling Italian villa, all of which come to bear a stunning affirmation of art's ability to ravage and redeem us.”
San Francisco Chronicle
The Conversion gives us the terrifically well-composed story of a young expatriate writer in France and Italy and his apprenticeship in art and life… Olshan's deeply passionate work… flows along beautifully, always leading the reader onward and rewarding in the best ways a novel rewards: putting you in a world you never made but become convinced is yours to inhabit. And perhaps a place afterward to recall with balanced affection.”
Valley News Interview -
"Olshan draws on the tradition of writers like James, Edith Wharton, William Dean Howells and more recently, Diane Johnson, Andrea Lee and Valerie Martin, all Americans who have lived or live in Europe and who take as their subject the clash of sensibilities that can arise from the mingling of American and European cultures.
He writes eloquently about the space between that the ex-pats occupy, neither fully nor wholly American...a sympathetic and poignant account almost a coming-of-age novel, of a young man seeking grace and redemption.”
Curled Up With a Good Book
“This lovely novel…is loaded with symbolism and metaphor…a beautifully constructed allegory of an artist's life where the prerogatives of the past are constantly intruding upon the present. Passionate, sexy, and powerful, The Conversion eventually symbolizes one young man's compulsion to break free of an unhealthy pattern and an unfinished life that ultimately is defined by the power of the written word." (Blog authority 253)
The Rutland Herald
“Elegant...sophisticated...that he (the narrator) seems so extremely authentic and human is a testament to Olshan's literary gifts."
"[The novel] comes layered with great story-telling, not to mention descriptions of Italian villas and antiquities that had me longing for a European vacation. Consider The Conversion the thinking man's beach read."
"Time and sexual boundaries are transcended in Olshan’s eighth novel. Thirty-one-year-old writer Russell Todaro has moved from New York to Paris to work as a freelance translator and to find inspiration for his own writing. When Edward Cannon, his older lover and an accomplished poet, dies of a heart attack after an armed robbery attempt in their hotel room, Russell finds Ed’s unfinished memoir. He must decide whether to honor his friend’s wishes and prevent publication or hand it over to Ed’s grasping executrix back in New York. In the year they were together Russell never fully returned Ed’s love, rather treating him as an esteemed friend and mentor. Before his death, Ed had introduced Russell to Marina, whose prize-winning novel set during World War II describes Jews hidden in a Tuscan convent who later convert to Catholicism. Awaiting the outcome of Ed’s inquest and badgered by his executrix into admitting he has the memoir, Russell visits Marina’s villa in Tuscany. A break-in at her estate and the death of her husband hint at a political drama that is loosely sketched and never clarified. Meanwhile, Russell’s decision to destroy Ed’s memoir does not offer the emotional release Russell seeks. Only when he lets go of the past—and receives an unexpected gift—can he fulfill his promise as a writer. The relationships between Olshan’s characters are sultry and multifaceted, mapped across a richly delineated landscape of intimacy and yearning. European sensibility and sensuality add new dimensions to Olshan's writing."
The Lambda Book Review -
"Olshan sets us on a compelling journey of unease…. [He] has channeled the best of Henry James (The Aspern Papers) and the poet of apprehension, Patricia Highsmith (The Tremor of Forgery), in this exquisite novel…his eighth and most mature and impressive novel."