Sunday, August 4, 2013

Book Thoughts - The Light in the Ruins by Chris Bohjalian

The Light in the Ruins by Chris Bohjalian
published 7/13
320 pages

Synopsis from publisher -

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 was 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.

My thoughts -

I have mentioned before that I'm not always sure why I keep picking up Chris Bohjalian's work - I always feel like I REALLY SHOULD like his novels, and then they tend to fall short for me. I think, in general, he and I differ on the way a story should end, and his work has left me feeling unsatisfied in the past. So, inevitably, when I found myself picking up his latest novel from the library shelves, I did question my own choice just a bit. Happily, however, I think I've finally found the Bohjalian novel that I enjoyed as much as the rest of the world seems to.

I never have any complaints about the writing, and this novel was no exception. Bohjalian captures the tension of the end of WWII in Italy; the idyllic life in Florence that is threatened by both the Germans and the Italian partisans; and the fear of the violence that is about to overtake them all. This is not a setting that I've read about before, so it was quite interesting and I thought Bohjalian did an excellent job of giving readers a sense of the historical place of his novel.

I think the heart of the novel is the question of how far each person is willing to go - each character is, at some point, faced with a dilemma, and their response to that situation has far-reaching consequences, for themselves and their families. Bohjalian allows the reader to asses for themselves which characters made the right decisions, and whether or not they truly had any choice in the matter.

The Light in the Ruins is compelling reading, and I found it to be both entertaining and thought-provoking. I did guess the killer about halfway through, but it was still fascinating to wait and see how that person would be revealed. If you are looking for a good literary mystery, don't pass this one up. Recommended.

Finished - 7/27/13
Source - South side library
MPAA rating - R for violence and adult situations
My rating - 8/10


bermudaonion said...

I've only read one of Bohjalian's books - Skeletons at the Feast - and I thought it was terrific so I've wanted to read more of his work. I'm glad to see this one is worth reading.

Anna said...

I've only read a couple of Bohjalian's books -- not the historical ones -- so I'm glad to see you liked this one. I'm still waiting (not-so-patiently) for a copy to come in from the library!

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea said...

Waiting for the audio version from the library. I have read all that Bohjalian has written.