The Light in the Ruins: Book summary and reviews of The Light in the Ruins by Chris Bohjalian

The Light in the Ruins

by Chris Bohjalian

The Light in the Ruins
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  • Published in USA  Jul 2013
    320 pages
    Genre: Novels

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Book Summary

1943: Tucked away in the idyllic hills south of Florence, the Rosatis, an Italian family of noble lineage, believe that the walls of their ancient villa will keep them safe from the war raging across Europe. Eighteen-year-old Cristina spends her days swimming in the pool, playing with her young niece and nephew, and wandering aimlessly amid the estate's gardens and olive groves. But when two soldiers, a German and an Italian, arrive at the villa asking to see an ancient Etruscan burial site, the Rosatis' bucolic tranquility is shattered. A young German lieutenant begins to court Cristina, the Nazis descend upon the estate demanding hospitality, and what was once their sanctuary becomes their prison.

1955: Serafina Bettini, an investigator with the Florence police department, has her own demons. A beautiful woman, Serafina carefully hides her scars along with her haunting memories of the war. But when she is assigned to a gruesome new case - a serial killer targeting the Rosatis, murdering the remnants of the family one-by-one in cold blood - Serafina finds herself digging into a past that involves both the victims and her own tragic history.

Set against an exquisitely rendered Italian countryside, The Light in the Ruins unveils a breathtaking story of moral paradox, human frailty, and the mysterious ways of the heart.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"An exploration of post-WWII Italy doubles as a murder mystery in this well-crafted novel ... an entertaining historical whodunit." - Publishers Weekly

"Starred Review. Thoroughly gripping, beautiful, and astonishingly vengeful, this novel is a heartbreaker. Bohjalian's latest turn to historical fiction is immensely rewarding." - Library Journal

"Starred Review. Mastering matters subtle and grotesque, Bohjalian combines intricate plotting and bewitching sensuality with historical insight and a profound sense of place to create an exceptional work of suspense rooted in the tragic aberrations of war." - Booklist

"A literary thriller ... a soulful why-done-it." - Kirkus

"A must-read ... stunning ... Bohjalian specializes in the suspense created when people are cut off, physically and emotionally, from society (as he did in his best-selling Midwives). Here he goes back in time to create that suspense, with a compelling female detective running from demons of her own as his heroine." - Tucson Weekly

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Reader Reviews

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Jeanne W

Great mix of historical fiction and mystery
This is the first of his books that I've really enjoyed. It's WWII historical fiction set in Italy mixed with a mystery. In 1943, the Rosati family owns a large estate near Florence in a small village. As WWII escalates, the Nazis begin imposing themselves on the family and stealing artworks from the tombs located on the estate. In 1955, someone begins murdering the remaining Rosati family members. Investigating the murders is a female detective who has her own connection to the Rosati estate. The detective, Serafina, is the most interesting character, and I'd love to see a follow-up featuring her. Some of the characters are kind of blank - Cristina Rosati and Francesca Rosati mainly. We learn very little about Cristina post-war and nothing about Francesca pre-war. But those are minor quibbles in what is overall an excellent novel.

Diane S.

the light in the ruins
Set in the early 1940's and alternating in the 1950's, this is about the Rosatis, a wealthy family with Etruscan paintings in a hidden spot in their groves, become tangled up in Hitler's crazy art scheme and war itself. Living in Florence they felt they were safe until they were not. This time period rotates between that time and the middle 1950's where a body of one of the family is found murdered.

This book did not grab me like so many others of his have. The connections seemed forced, the coincidences somewhat unbelievable and the musing of the killer I did not like at all. It is well written, really all his books are, and I did love reading about Florence, the history of the family and the times, but for me it never flowed seamlessly.

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Author Information

Chris Bohjalian Author Biography

Chris Bohjalian and his wife decided to leave New York City in 1986 for "pastoral" Vermont after a wild and terrifying 45-minute cab ride that ultimately dropped them at a crack house being stormed by police.

Fans of Mr. Bohjalian are probably very pleased that he did not take the advice given him in college by the writer-in-residence when he applied for a writing seminar. After reading the short story required for admittance, the writer/instructor "slid my short story across the expanse of the desk as if it were a piece of profoundly disagreeable road kill. 'I have three words for you, she said. Be a banker'."

Instead he had the courage to follow his dream and take his own advice which he now doles out to new writers wanting to be discovered. ...

Full Biography
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Name Pronunciation
Chris Bohjalian: bo-jail-yen (first syllable pronounced like to tie a bow)

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