Monday, July 8, 2013

Review: "The Light in the Ruins" by Chris Bohjalian

From Goodreads:  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.

My Thoughts:  I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  I have heard that Chris Bohjalian is a really good author but have never read his books.  The synopsis for A Light in the Ruins really piqued my interest so I decided to give it a shot.  I must say that I wasn't disappointed.  The combination of modern day mystery with historical fiction made for great reading and I actually read the whole book in a single day. 

The setting of this book was fantastic.  I haven't read many books set in Italy, especially World War II era Italy, but I really enjoyed the descriptions of the Rosati villa and especially the Etruscan tombs.  I felt like I could very easily picture the path that led from the house to the tombs because the author described the scenery so well.  Bohjalian is very good setting a scene with his descriptions; the descriptions of the two murder scenes were so gruesome but led an air of authenticity to the story and there were a couple of scenes that were extremely creepy because the author described the sights and sounds so well.

I am a sucker for a good mystery and I love when a story involves both mystery and historical fiction into one book.  Two members of the Rosati family are murdered in the "present" (1955 is the present in this book) but the reasons for their deaths can only be found in the past so the story goes back and forth between 1943 and 1955.  I honestly didn't figure out who the murderer was until he was revealed.  I had so many guesses and I was sure for most of the book it was one person and it wound up being someone I never would have thought.  As I have said in previous reviews, I love when I can't figure out who the bad guy is!  I did kind of feel bad for the murderer (weird, I know) but I could see where he was coming from though I did not agree with his actions.

One of the main characters in the story is Serafina who is the only female detective on the police force.  I really liked her and enjoyed following her as she starts to remember what happened to her during the war and how the Rosati's played into that part of her life.  I actually enjoyed reading about her more than the other characters because she had been through so much and was a true survivor.  I thought the Rosati's were an interesting family but they seemed very spoiled and naive and it got on my nerves a little bit.

Overall, I thought this was a really good book and there was very little that I didn't like about it.  It was very well-written and the secrets and mystery kept me glued to it until the very end.  4 stars.

1 comment:

  1. I put this one on my list after reading your review and really enjoyed it. I'm having my book club read it now. -Bridget


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