Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Review: The Light in the Ruins

The Light in the Ruins
By Chris Bohjalian
Doubleday July 2013 
309 pages
From the library

The Light in the Ruins

In 1943, the Rosati family lives a charmed life in their beautiful Italian villa. They are hopeful that the prestige of the family name and the faithfulness of their sons' service for the Germans will keep them safe. But one day, German soldiers descend on their estate They are interested in the art that adorns the family burial site. And one of them is interested in the Rosati's daughter, Christina. Twelve years later, the war is over but mental and physical scars abound. Serafina Bettini, the only female investigator on the Florence homicide team, is racing against the clock to find a brutal murderer who has set his sights on the Rosati family. As Serafina searches for answers, she will discover long-buried secrets and a shocking connection to the Rosatis.

Chris Bohjalian has done an amazing job of creating a very layered story. In the beginning, you think that the events happened a certain way. With each chapter, your understanding changes and new details come to light. I was incredibly impressed that he kept me guessing until almost the very end. I had several thoughts about who the killer might be. All of a sudden, the pieces came together and I knew exactly what had happened.

I really appreciated Bohjalian's look at a usually hidden part of WWII. He focuses on the people who had to choose between supporting the Nazis or watching the deaths of their family. The Italians were supposedly allied with the Germans. That decision was made by governments, not the people of Italy. The people were the ones who paid the price, though. The Rosatis live a life of privilege on their private estate. They are targeted by the Nazis because of their position and then reviled by their neighbors who think they should have stood up to the Germans. This book looks at the responsibilities that we have for each other and doing what is right in times of war. How do you pick between two evils? Who is culpable in a time of oppression? Must we pay for sins of omission? 

The Light in the Ruins is an incredibly dark tale. There is a striking contrast between the major horror of war and the very personal vendetta that the killer is carrying out against the Rosatis because, as one character puts it, "we always have choices." Mr. Bohjalian has crafted a novel that is the perfect blend of historical fiction, crime thriller, and meditation on choices and responsibility. 

8 comments:

  1. Oh how I love Bohjalian! Every book of his is completely different from the last :D Great review!

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    1. It's my first time reading his work! What should I read next??

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  2. This review makes me want to read the book even more!

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    1. Hooray! That's always nice to hear. :)

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  3. Great review, Lindsey! This book looks quite wonderful. I loved the fact that the reality that the book depicts changes with every chapter when we get to know new facts. I will look for this book at the library. Thanks for this wonderful review.

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    1. Thank you, Vishy. I love when your knowledge of the story change throughout the book.

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  4. I've been sitting on this book, thinking I might break it out for an upcoming getaway. His books are so easy to read, and I think he's on his mark when he's writing his historical fiction.

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    1. Yes, I could definitely see all of the research he had done come through in his writing. I feel like the last person to know about him!

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