The Light in the Ruins

The Light in the Ruins

by Chris Bohjalian
4.1 127

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Overview

The Light in the Ruins by Chris Bohjalian

From the New York Times bestselling author of Midwives and The Sandcastle Girls comes a spellbinding novel of love, despair, and revenge—set in war-ravaged Tuscany.

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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780385534826
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 07/09/2013
Series: Vintage Contemporaries
Sold by: Random House
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 30,782
File size: 3 MB

About the Author

CHRIS BOHJALIAN is the author of twenty books, including The Guest Room; Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands; The Sandcastle Girls; Skeletons at the Feast; The Double Bind; and Midwives which was a number one New York Times bestseller and a selection of Oprah's Book Club. Chris's work has been translated into more than thirty languages, and three novels have become movies (Secrets of Eden, Midwives, and Past the Bleachers). Chris lives in Vermont and can be found at www.chrisbohjalian.com or on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Litsy, and Goodreads.

Hometown:

Lincoln, Vermont

Date of Birth:

August 12, 1961

Place of Birth:

White Plains, New York

Education:

Amherst College

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The Light in the Ruins 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 127 reviews.
bookchickdi More than 1 year ago
I've read some WWII books set in Germany (City of Women, The Life of Objects), France (Suite Francaise)  and England (The Guernsey Potato Peel & Literary Society and Phillip Rock's Abingdon Pryory trilogy), but I hadn't read many set in Italy. Chris Bohjalian returns to historical fiction again after his last novel, The Sandcastle Girls, was set after WWI in Armenia during the genocide there. This time in The Light in the Ruins, we meet the Rosatis, Italian descendants of nobilty. They have a lovely large mansion near Florence and life is good until Italy decides to throw its fortunes in with Hitler's Germany. What I find interesting about many of these books is the theme of what happens to people who want nothing to do with war, who do not support their government. They cannot openly defy their government, and they can hide from the war for only so long before it comes to their doorstep. The story takes place both during WWII and ten years later when someone begins to murder the surviving members of the Rosati family. Daughter-in-law Francesca, who lost her husband and children to the war, is brutally butchered. It is thought that she picked up a strange man who killed her, until another Rosati is murdered. We meet a female Italian homicide detective, Serafina Bettini, which is a unique job for a woman in Italy in the 1950s. Serafina has a fascinating past, and as the story unfolds, we discover her connection to the Rosatis. I loved this character and would enjoy seeing Serafina in another book (hint hint Mr. Bohjalian). Bohjalian has a knack for writing interesting, complicated female characters (Midwives, The Double Bind,  The Sandcastle Girls). The book moves back and forth in time, and we see how the Rosatis are drawn further into the war. One son, Francesca's husband, is an engineer who ends up on the front lines. Another son is an art historian, and his job is protecting art from falling into the hands of the Nazis. This part of the story intrigued me, and I learned much about a topic I had not known about before. The youngest Rosati, Cristina, falls in love with a young German soldier, and this complicates matters. Her family is upset, and the townspeople, some of whom are resistance fighters, distrust the Rosatis. They feel that the Rosatis have thrown their lot in with the Nazis and deserve whatever misfortune comes their way. War is hell, and their is plenty of horrific atrocities that take place in the book. Even though as a reader you brace yourself for it, the things that happen are shocking and brutal. The Rosatis have to deal with the Germans, and then the Russians as they come through looking for the Germans. The horrors of war come right into their home and the result is devastating. There is so much in this book to recommend. The history, the characters, the setting (it has increased my desire to visit Italy), the mysteries (who is killing the Rosatis and why, and what happened to Serafina during the war), they all come together in the skilled hands of Chris Bohjalian. I lost myself in The Light in the Ruins and isn't that really why we read books? This is one of the best books I have read this year.
Michigan-Fan More than 1 year ago
Reading Chris Bohjalian is like savoring my favorite wine. I cant wait to pick it up and devour it and I hate to put it down. Every book he writes just gets better and better. I especially love this one and the setting is another character all its own. Makes me want to head to Italy. If you are a Bohjalian fan you will pick it up and if you have never read Chris, this one will hook you and you will head back to Barnes and Noble and say...what else can I read. No spoilers here, just a strong recommendation for a must read from someone who loves books....now what are you waiting for, go get it.
bookaholique More than 1 year ago
The short review: Brilliant! Go order this right now. You’re welcome. The long review: This story is told in alternating chapters. Some chapters are based in 1943 and others are in 1955. All is set in Italy. Interspersed are short chapters related to the individual who is killing the remaining Rosati family. The main female characters are Serafina and Christina. In 1943, both women are teenagers and in many ways are polar opposites of each other. Christina Rosati is a teenager who has everything to lose due to the ongoing war and Italy’s alliance with Germany. Slipping away is her privileged life as the only daughter of a marchese, along with her very first romance. Unfortunately, this romance is with a German officer. Serafina on the other hand has nothing to lose, because all for her is already lost. Her family has been killed and her only option is to join up with partisan’s fighting against the Nazis, who have been busy pillaging anything of value from Italy, under the guise of being allies. By 1955, Serafina is a detective and is assigned to a investigate the case of who is gruesomely murdering the Rosatis. Because of this, she meets up with Christina. At this point, both women have more similarities than differences. Both carry the emotional scars that the end of the war brought them and Serafina has the added burden of physical scars from an event that occurred as the German’s were trying to flee Italy. This story was very intense. It is one of those books that was so suspenseful, I did not want to put it down. I could not read fast enough, yet I didn’t want it to end. This was so well written that I felt every heartache, every scary moment, and at the end, I was surprised at the identity of the killer. Chris Bohjalian is on my very, very short list of favorite authors. I have discovered that having “favorite” authors can be a double edged sword. Yes, in most instances, books that I have read by a favorite are typically very good. Sometimes though, the level of anticipation and expectation sets the bar so high that I’m not sure the books even have a fair chance to come up to snuff. Not so with The Light in the Ruins. I thought this was outstanding and was far beyond anything I had expected. Bravo Mr. Bojhalian. I am grateful to Doubleday Books, via Netgalley, for allowing me to read this in exchange for an unbiased review.
MSYogaChick More than 1 year ago
I'll admit it: I had a hard time getting into this book. The two time periods alternated back and forth, making it hard to follow the story ar first. Linear story-telling is much simpler, but having read other books by this author I was willing to hang in there for one long sitting! I am so glad I did! Excellent story, creative who-done-it, not an expected ending. Worth reading!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed the historical background of the story but did find it confusing as the chapters went back and forth between the characters.
LizzieCF More than 1 year ago
My favorite reads are best-seller murder mysteries, and historical fiction. This book had both elements, and I liked going back and forth between WWII and occupied Italy, and "modern day"-1950's murders. I just discovered this author, which is like reaching into a candy jar and being surprised that a delicious new chocolate is in your hand.
lsmeadows More than 1 year ago
Chris Bohjalian has another hit!!   Chris Bohjalian pens another spectacular book with The Light in the Ruins.  I have read several of Chris' books and have not found one yet that I didn't like.  The story opens in 1955 with the murder of Francesca Rosati.  Like Skeletons at the Feast,thought,  his latest effort is primarily set set late in WWII, as the tide is turning away from the Germans and toward the Allies.  The focus of the story is the life of the Rosati family, who are headed by a marchese and marchesa, and live in their Tuscan villa.  First of all, Chris is a consummate story-teller.   In most of his books, the chapters alternate between viewpoints.  Sometimes it is the differing viewpoints of the characters, but in this case it is between the events of 1943 and 1955 when Francesca is murdered in Florence.  Chris is one of the best authors out there when it comes to telling a story from alternate viewpoints, and in The Light in the Ruins he does this by making use of both alternate time periods and alternate character viewpoints.  I especially like the way that he threw in the thoughts of the murdered every once in a while.  I found myself looking for clues in these small chapters to try to figure out who the murderer was.  In addition, his descriptions really make the settings come alive for me.  Another thing that I liked about this book, and most of Chris' books, is that there is usually a bit of a twist at the end.  I have not been able to figure out these "reveals" in most of his book, and this book was no different.  I really enjoy when an author can surprise me with something relevant at the end of the story.  If I know this is coming, I find myself trying to figure it out throughout the book and it really keeps my interest.  As for character development and use, there is none better than Chris Bohjalian.  Once again, in this book, he has crafted characters perfectly suited to illustrate the many sides of  his story.  In this book there are two pairings that do this well.  There are the brothers Rosati, who are participating in the war in very different ways, but the best example is the pair of Cristina and Serafina.   The similarities and juxtapositions between these two characters was a great way to show the alternate sides of the story.  Both women were the same age, both women were heavily affected by the war, but their lives, both in 1955 and 1943, couldn't have been more different.  The thing that I like the best about Chris Bohjalian's work, though, is the way that he can weave a story around such different subjects.  None of his books really resemble the others.  Sure there are similarities, but when I pick up a book by Chris I know two things.  One, that I will enjoy the stories, settings, characters, etc., and two, that it will not be a rehashed or retold version of any of his other stories.  Most importantly, I know it will be an enjoyable experience that I will not want to end.   Thanks to Chris and The Sisterhood of the Traveling Book for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for my review. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Fantastic read
AlanAbrams More than 1 year ago
The Light in the Ruins is a phenomenal novel. The characters are well developed and worthy of the reader's investment. Nazis (of course) make for great villains.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I could not put this book down. The page by page suspense kept me "glued" to the story. If you are fascinated by events that occurred during World War 11, then you will enjoy this book. Chris Bohjalian is an excellent author and I would definitely recommend this book to a book club.
drayce More than 1 year ago
I could not put this down litterly.I like it so much I went and bought his Mid Wife haven't started it yet because I have company and have to get some work done and if it is like The light in the Ruins I wont get anything done.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Excellent book: the style, the plot, the History behind the plot everything contributes to make this book one you cannot let go of.
amia More than 1 year ago
I thought this was a great book.  There a several stories intertwined, and it jumps back & forth between 1943 & 1955 Italy, but is so well written that I had no trouble keeping things straight.  I honestly didn't know much about the Italian involvement in WWII, and this book inspired me to research!  I will definitely pick up more of Mr. Bohjalian's books, and absolutely recommend this one!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Another outstanding novel from Chris Bohjalian. I've read almost all of them and have never been disappointed. His characters, setting and plot keep you riveted to the last page. If you have not read any of his books, start anywhere and savor the ride. Congratulations, Chris.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I thought Sand Castle Girls was excellent, but this book is more excellent! Learned things about WW2 that I had not known before and my Mother/Father In Law were Italian. An excellent mystery, a little love story. Moves at a fast pace and not until the last pages does it all come together. Any of Bohjalian books are good reads!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great book, loved the plot. Mr. Bohjalian never seems to disappoint.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Amazing, heart wrenching, wonderful!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
PlEASE B &N THERE ARE MANY FALSE RATINGS DUE TO MISLEADING RATINGS AND COMMENTS. HIRE A REVIEW BOARD TO WEED OUT THIS CHILDISH BEHAVIOR. YOUR DEDICATED READERS CERTAINLY PAY ENOUGH AND DESERVE SOME ATTENTION FROM YOU IN THIS AREA.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good story and kept my interest.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am a big fan of Chris Bohjalian. I enjoyed this book. I appreciated the historical information about Italy during World War II. I recommend this book to other readers.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a wonderful murder mystery set in post WW II Italy.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Excellent book. I have only recently begun reading books about the Germans in Italy during WW II and not realizing the destruction that they did to the Italians and the countryside. The Light in the Ruins was so well written and held your attention. The ending was quick but the book captured you from the very beginning. Highly recommend this book to readers. Couldn't put it down. Even though some people did not like going back and forth with the characters and the years, I felt this added to the story line.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
As usual Chris Bohjalian knocks it out of the park! The Light in the Ruins is well-written, intense and while not always a pleasure to read, as it deals with difficult topics, it is an excellent read. The topic is a departure from some of his other works and he dives head on into the murky doings of some families in Tuscany during WWII. While not for the squeamish as the author does not shy away from details I would highly recommend this book!
GeGee More than 1 year ago
Loved this book!
DianeBCT More than 1 year ago
You will not be disappointed. Reads quickly. One of those books you can't put down.