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The Light in the Ruins

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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. Ei 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.

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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. Ei 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.

30 review for The Light in the Ruins

  1. 4 out of 5

    Jacki (Julia Flyte)

    I'm a little baffled by the glowing reviews for this book. I felt that it dragged. It took me two weeks to read and it was only sheer stubbornness that kept me going. It's set in Tuscany and the story unfolds in dual storylines. In 1943-44, the wealthy Rosati family are living in the Villa Chimera and somewhat reluctantly playing host to a number of Nazis who come to visit a recently discovered Etruscan tomb on their land. In 1955, the same family are being targeted one by one by a serial killer I'm a little baffled by the glowing reviews for this book. I felt that it dragged. It took me two weeks to read and it was only sheer stubbornness that kept me going. It's set in Tuscany and the story unfolds in dual storylines. In 1943-44, the wealthy Rosati family are living in the Villa Chimera and somewhat reluctantly playing host to a number of Nazis who come to visit a recently discovered Etruscan tomb on their land. In 1955, the same family are being targeted one by one by a serial killer. Detective Serafina Bettini is trying to find the serial killer and to understand what might have happened during the war to make the family a target today. She will also discover that she holds a very personal connection with the Rosati family. One thing that frustrated me about this book is that it couldn't decide what it wanted to be. In part, it's a murder mystery, but there is virtually no way that the reader can work out the solution for themselves. In part it's a romance, but it felt like the author lost interest in the romance because it's almost entirely absent from the final third of the book. Moreover, the way that the story is told in two timeframes means that much of the suspense from the 1943 events is lost because we already have a sense of what is going to happen and who is going to survive that period. There is a large host of characters and they all tend to blur. I didn't really feel any connection to any of them, except maybe to Cristina and Serafina, but even then there was so much going on that Cristina almost fades away as a main character and Serafina doesn't have enough of an arc. Sensitive readers should also be aware that there are graphic murder details and other cruelty eg to animals is spelled out in detail.

  2. 4 out of 5

    J. Parra

    The Light in the Ruins stoked my fondness for historical fiction set in Italy. I expected art, history, romance, family turmoil, maybe a little mystery. I didn’t expect to get sucked into a tense and rewarding page-turner with beautiful prose and well-rendered characters. Not one for “procedurals”, I nevertheless enjoyed the set up: a serial killer is stalking family members from a formerly illustrious Tuscan clan. The killer has a vendetta and some pretty gnarly hospital instruments. Although C The Light in the Ruins stoked my fondness for historical fiction set in Italy. I expected art, history, romance, family turmoil, maybe a little mystery. I didn’t expect to get sucked into a tense and rewarding page-turner with beautiful prose and well-rendered characters. Not one for “procedurals”, I nevertheless enjoyed the set up: a serial killer is stalking family members from a formerly illustrious Tuscan clan. The killer has a vendetta and some pretty gnarly hospital instruments. Although Chris Bohjalian starts with a great hook (Who is this killer?), he effortlessly slips into a family saga involving all the members of the Rosati family. Two distinct period settings come to life. We travel between the outskirts of Florence in 1943 and the same area several years later, in 1955. In 1955, a detective named Serafina Bettini is closing in on the killer and rounding up the remaining Rosati family. In 1943, we witness the Rosatis tangling with Nazis and partisans, challenged by the historical anguish brought on during World War II. The family must make some painful choices that will impact them in the future. The prose and the locations come to life in Bohjalian’s capable hands. The historical details mostly steer clear of clichés and Bohjalian explores Etruscan art motifs and references to Dante with aplomb. I particularly enjoyed Serafina, whose own history is woven into the events of the story. As a female detective in Italy in the 50’s, she’s an anomaly but not a cipher and Bohjalian clearly savors developing her stake in the story’s outcome. I wonder how Bohjalian feels about Dan Brown’s Inferno, which uses a similar setting and also incorporates Dante’s life and works. Luckily, there’s room for both books on many summer reading lists.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Pam

    What is it about a Chris Bohjalian book that keeps you reading? Is it the building of the story the way an orchestra builds to the finale? Is it the character development with snippets of information about each one? Is it the history of the time period with lots of facts mixed in with some fiction mixed with your own imagination? Yes to all of the above! With this story you get to follow an Italian family's struggle with the occupation of their villa, Chimera by the Nazis during WWII. Struggle is What is it about a Chris Bohjalian book that keeps you reading? Is it the building of the story the way an orchestra builds to the finale? Is it the character development with snippets of information about each one? Is it the history of the time period with lots of facts mixed in with some fiction mixed with your own imagination? Yes to all of the above! With this story you get to follow an Italian family's struggle with the occupation of their villa, Chimera by the Nazis during WWII. Struggle is such an understatement of what the Rosatis went through during that time and after the war. How can one split second decision in the beginning by Anthony effect the family for the rest of their lives? There is so much to this book that I am struggling to put into words. There are strong family bonds even when a family does not exist. There is loyalty to country and land even when it is all gone. And the betrayal and heartache is overwhelming at times. There were parts of this book that made me gasp out loud. I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys reading about WWII, serial killers, romance, etc...It is all here in this one book. Many many many thanks to Doubleday and Netgalley for this ARC.

  4. 5 out of 5

    XxTainaxX

    Originally posted at Curvy and Nerdy Blog. During poignant times, the Rosati family was faced with a moral dilemma that affected them still years after the war was over. From the beginning, as readers, we are brought into a world where a killer has obviously set their sights on the family with a grudge that roots deep. We then experience the story of what was, and more grippingly, what this family had to go through when decision after decision intertwined them more firmly with a rapidly losing Ge Originally posted at Curvy and Nerdy Blog. During poignant times, the Rosati family was faced with a moral dilemma that affected them still years after the war was over. From the beginning, as readers, we are brought into a world where a killer has obviously set their sights on the family with a grudge that roots deep. We then experience the story of what was, and more grippingly, what this family had to go through when decision after decision intertwined them more firmly with a rapidly losing Germany. A Germany supported by Mussolini Black Shirts bringing Italy firmly into the war in what would eventually be known as the losing side. The story remains enigmatic to the very end, leaving us to speculate and wonder at the reasoning and perpetrator targeting the family. We are treated to the perspective of Serafina, a female detective in charge of the investigation who has a connection to the family even she was not aware of until the story begins to unravel. She is an anomaly in that time, being a female detective. The narrative is eloquent and enthralling as I found myself absorbing the history that is accurately represented in the pages. I found myself doing additional research to better immerse myself in the accounting of it. It was truly an engaging read that I found difficult to put down.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Jessica Jeffers

    I don't think I am a Chris Bohjalian fan. Granted, this is only my second time reading him, but I have many of the same problems here as I did before. I actually requested this book from NetGalley because I thought the plot sounded promising, and I worked very hard to give Chris a clean mental slate on which he could impress me and change my opinion. This book, by the way, is about a wealthy Italian family during World War II. In 1943, the Rosatis' property is of great interest to Germans who are I don't think I am a Chris Bohjalian fan. Granted, this is only my second time reading him, but I have many of the same problems here as I did before. I actually requested this book from NetGalley because I thought the plot sounded promising, and I worked very hard to give Chris a clean mental slate on which he could impress me and change my opinion. This book, by the way, is about a wealthy Italian family during World War II. In 1943, the Rosatis' property is of great interest to Germans who are looking to gather the archaeological artifacts from an Etruscan tomb on the grounds to keep in their own museums. One of the German soldiers involved in the museum coordination falls for the youngest Rosati daughter, Christina. A decade later, Christina's sister-in-law Francesca is murdered in a brutal fashion. Serafina, the first female homicide detective in Italy, has a connection to the Rosatis and wonders how the murder might be connected to the events of the war. I just don't like the way he writes exposition or foreshadowing. He does it in such a way that his twist endings do not make sense to me in the context of the first 97% of the book. He has a tendency to give away plot points very early on in a way that, for me, saps the tension out of the back half of the story. I really can't explain why these things didn't work for me without giving away the ending so only open this spoiler if you already know what happens or don't care. (view spoiler)[Things that bothered me: 1. There is no explanation offered for why the murders were so brutal. These kind of murders are usually associated with psychotic/sociopathic folk of the Hannibal Lecter variety and it was never really clear to me how or why the murderer devolved into the psychological state necessary for this brutal and complex a murder. 2. The murderer is Enrico, avenging the death of his brother and wife. Along with Serafina, they were partisan fighters resisting the Nazis during the war. They were hiding out on the Rosati property after Serafina was injured and Francesca gave them up to try and protect her husband. Enrico waited 11+ years to start killing Rosatis because he'd been in a labor camp in Russia. Either way, Enrico was not sufficiently developed for me to be shocked by or even interested in his murderous ways. 3. The love story between Christina and Friederich didn't serve a lot of purpose in the bigger story and seemed to me to be little more than obvious misdirection. I'm fine with misdirection, but I think that the elements of said misdirection need to contribute to overall story in a way that this did not. 4. The same can be said for the final bit about how Friedrich died and Decher stole his dog tags in a page out of the Dick Whitman Playbook of Life. Bohjalian had kind of set us up to expect that the murderer was one of the soldiers involved with the Etruscan artifacts, which is all well and good, but this twist didn't add to the story. (hide spoiler)] All that being said, Bohjalian's a popular guy so if you disagreed with my feelings on The Double Bind, you'll probably disagree with me here, too. I seem to be in the minority as a Bohjalian skeptic.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Elyse Walters

    I see a movie in the making!!!! :)

  7. 4 out of 5

    Lisa B.

    My Thoughts 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 e My Thoughts 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. Publish date: July 9, 2013.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Connie G

    "The Light in the Ruins" is a historical mystery set in Florence and the Tuscan countryside. A killer's sinister thoughts show that he/she wants to destroy the Rosati family. The murderer's calling card is to leave the victims with their hearts cut out in several attacks in 1955. Why are the Rosatis being targeted? A narrative set in 1943 tells the Rosati family story from the points of view of several members of the family. They owned the Villa Chimera, and had olive groves and vineyards on thei "The Light in the Ruins" is a historical mystery set in Florence and the Tuscan countryside. A killer's sinister thoughts show that he/she wants to destroy the Rosati family. The murderer's calling card is to leave the victims with their hearts cut out in several attacks in 1955. Why are the Rosatis being targeted? A narrative set in 1943 tells the Rosati family story from the points of view of several members of the family. They owned the Villa Chimera, and had olive groves and vineyards on their Tuscan property. An Etruscan necropolis on their grounds attracted the interest of the Nazis who were removing valuable artwork from Italy. The Rosatis were put in the difficult position of having to entertain, and eventually billet some Nazi soldiers. Meanwhile, the oldest son Vittore Rosati is trying to save Italian art treasures from destruction or transport to Nazi Germany. Another son is fighting in Sicily while his wife and children stay at the villa. The daughter Cristina is attracted to a German soldier who returns her love. Although the Nazis were allied with the Italians, they acted more like a force of occupation as the war progressed. The patriarch of the family had to make some questionable, tough decisions in order to keep his family safe during the war. Serafina Bettini is the only woman in the Florence homicide unit. She is a former partisan who targeted both the Nazis and the Italian facists during World War II. As Serafina investigates the murders of the Rosatis, traumatic memories of 1943 continue to haunt her. The book is told in three narratives featuring Serafina, the Rosati family, and the murderer. The story kept me in suspense, and I was unable to guess the identity of the killer. While the book did not delve deeply into the minds of any one character, it did give a good overview of the situations people faced in wartime Italy.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Connie

    Mr Bohjalian can be depended on to deliver a story with full, rich characters and a well thought out storyline that flows and is beautifully written. If it is a historical fiction piece he must do massive research as I know I will always learn something. Most of his works that I have read are told from different viewpoints and often during different time periods. This often does not work but he is the master of this technique. This story takes place in Italy, both at the end of WWII as the Germ Mr Bohjalian can be depended on to deliver a story with full, rich characters and a well thought out storyline that flows and is beautifully written. If it is a historical fiction piece he must do massive research as I know I will always learn something. Most of his works that I have read are told from different viewpoints and often during different time periods. This often does not work but he is the master of this technique. This story takes place in Italy, both at the end of WWII as the Germans are pushed out of Italy, and about 10 years later as the story of the Rosati families role in the war unfolds while investigating some brutal murders. It is a bit of a mystery that detective Seraphina works to solve while reliving her own role during the War. The past and present are about to collide. The characters are so diverse. Their feelings about the war, the Germans who invaded their country and homes, their own roles and perspectives are so unique. This was a family who learned how to survive a horrible time. I was sympathetic to some of the characters and found a few horrible. Bohalian makes the reader think a bit about what one might do or become in certain situations. I enjoyed the characters and the back story the most. The murder plot was good and I loved that the voice of the killer was heard throughout the story. I listened to the audio which was wonderfully narrated and the killer especially creepy! I did however think the end was a bit anticlimactic, though believable. Not quite my favorite of his, but well done. 3.5 stars for the rich characters and beautiful writing. Up to 4 for the great narration of the audio.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Nicole~

    4.5 stars "There is no greater sorrow than to recall our time of joy in wretchedness." -Dante 1943-44 near the end of German occupation in Tuscany, the Rosatis, a titled family, entertained and danced with the enemy at their Villa Chimera. They were favored by the Germans while the ravages of war play out around them. Eleven years later, surviving members of the Rosati family are targeted by a ruthless murderer. More intriguing is the entanglement of the investigator on the case; Serafina Bettini' 4.5 stars "There is no greater sorrow than to recall our time of joy in wretchedness." -Dante 1943-44 near the end of German occupation in Tuscany, the Rosatis, a titled family, entertained and danced with the enemy at their Villa Chimera. They were favored by the Germans while the ravages of war play out around them. Eleven years later, surviving members of the Rosati family are targeted by a ruthless murderer. More intriguing is the entanglement of the investigator on the case; Serafina Bettini's obscure past may have some fateful and deadly links to the Rosatis. This was a suspenseful, wartime historical novel with a believable mix of characters from every class, painting a time when horrific actions were made under duress, and the subsequent backlash resulting from those actions. Could such actions be justifiable in the face of one's survival or utter demise? The question that kept circulating throughout the novel was: "Did they have a choice?" For the one who lost everything in the war: "we always have choices." "Those were messy years. We all made friends and we all made enemies. Most of us did whatever it took to stay alive. By 1944, if the Germans weren't lining you up against a wall and shooting you for protecting the partisans, the partisans were lining you up against a wall and shooting you for collaborating with the Germans". Chris Bohjilian's well written story gave me a solid sense of a family's strength tested in the wake of destruction, of undeniable need for revenge and retribution, of forgiveness for actions and choices made in the hell of war; to treasure what remains, and search for the light in the ruins.

  11. 4 out of 5

    ☮Karen

    If you have read this in book form and missed out on the audio, I feel sorry for you. Most of the audio version is beautifully narrated by Cassandra Campbell. But it is also interspersed throughout with some very, very creepy blurbs by the book's serial killer at work, planning and scheming what to do with the next heart he will carve out of his victims (read by Mark Bramhall). The killer's attempted display of intellectual superiority and his sly cunning put me in mind a bit of Hannibal Lecter. If you have read this in book form and missed out on the audio, I feel sorry for you. Most of the audio version is beautifully narrated by Cassandra Campbell. But it is also interspersed throughout with some very, very creepy blurbs by the book's serial killer at work, planning and scheming what to do with the next heart he will carve out of his victims (read by Mark Bramhall). The killer's attempted display of intellectual superiority and his sly cunning put me in mind a bit of Hannibal Lecter. I found myself looking forward to his ruminations, his chapters, more than anything. Gave me the chilly willies. But then his ending seemed a bit anticlimactic for some reason and wrapped up too quickly. Chris Bohjalian did a superb job on Skeletons at the Feast, depicting WWII Germany. Now he transports us to WWII Italy, and again I am in awe of his many talents and vast reserves of knowledge. Very beautifully written, maybe somewhat stretched out in the middle, but Tuscany cannot be boring for long. This was my first taste in a long time of fiction involving Italy's history, and now I want more, please.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Diane S ☔

    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 coi 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. ARC from publisher.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Marialyce

    Interesting mystery tale that reflected on the results of war even years after the war has ended on people's heart and minds. I was a bit bloody and gruesome but the overwhelming focus of revenge was clear cut. The author kept the identity of the killer very well hidden until the very end and was able to explore the horrific conditions people were not only forced to live under but also forced to witness each and every day. The main character,Serafina, is not only marred by disfigurement, but also Interesting mystery tale that reflected on the results of war even years after the war has ended on people's heart and minds. I was a bit bloody and gruesome but the overwhelming focus of revenge was clear cut. The author kept the identity of the killer very well hidden until the very end and was able to explore the horrific conditions people were not only forced to live under but also forced to witness each and every day. The main character,Serafina, is not only marred by disfigurement, but also carries around a large measure of survivor guilt. She is a tragic character is every sense of the word. The Rosatis, thought as by some as collaborators, also struggle to come to terms with what once was their family and the land on which they were born to. The author did a fine job explaining why we do what we do under circumstances that were both horrific and cruel.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Pat

    Each time I pick up a Boujalian book, I think, this is the one in which I will see what others see, the reason for his popularity and glowing reviews. And each time,page-turner that it may be, I come to the same conclusion:he has learned to sell books by manipulating readers with sensation, suspense and contrived melodrama.This book disturbs me on many levels. With it Bohjalian jumps on the bandwagon of now trendy WWII fiction,as if we needed one more novel exploiting the anguish of that generat Each time I pick up a Boujalian book, I think, this is the one in which I will see what others see, the reason for his popularity and glowing reviews. And each time,page-turner that it may be, I come to the same conclusion:he has learned to sell books by manipulating readers with sensation, suspense and contrived melodrama.This book disturbs me on many levels. With it Bohjalian jumps on the bandwagon of now trendy WWII fiction,as if we needed one more novel exploiting the anguish of that generation. And I use the word exploit intentionally.There is a difference between novels like(for example) "Every Man Dies Alone", "Istanbul Passage",and "Sophie's Choice", which plumb the heart and soul of the characters and attempt to reach some deeper understanding of the inhumanity and brutality of that time, and "Light in the Ruins," which uses the backdrop of the Italian occupation by the Nazi's for a grisly,gratuitously violent serial killer thriller. Hearts are cut out and presented in boxes, and both humans and animals are tortured and killed(with a little sex thrown in for good measure), with no synthesizing compassion or moral compass to lead the reader to a more complete understanding of why the human beast does such things.The facile conclusion (we all had to made choices versus did we really have a choice?) is so shallow and brazenly trite that it is an insult to real life human beings who did experience the Italian front and suffered horrifically. I am appalled by Boujalian's impudence and self-serving commercialism.I am tempted to paraphrase a line from Louise Penny's Inspector Gamache series, a quote from a scathing review of an artist: "He's a natural: he produces novels like it's a bodily function."

  15. 4 out of 5

    Glenda

    1943: 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. But when two soldiers, a German and an Italian, arrive at the villa asking to see an ancient Etruscan burial site, the Rosatis’ quiet life 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: A serial killer is ta 1943: 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. But when two soldiers, a German and an Italian, arrive at the villa asking to see an ancient Etruscan burial site, the Rosatis’ quiet life 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: A serial killer is targeting the Rosatis, murdering the remnants of the family one-by-one in cold blood. Serafina Bettini, an investigator with the Florence police department, has her own demons and haunting memories of the war. But when she is assigned to the case, she finds herself digging into the victims' past and her own tragic history. I read everything this author writes. Most I love, some are just ok. This one was just ok for me. I'm not sure exactly what didn't work for me. I enjoyed it when I was reading it--it just wasn't one of those that called to me. I felt like Serafina's connection to the murders was a stretch. What are the chances of her investigating murders that involved her past? I felt for all the Rosatis had to go through...I just didn't really connect with them. Many of the artifacts were unfamiliar to me and I had to look them up to fully understand what they were talking about. There were a lot of secondary characters introduced that really didn't have a lot to do with the story. The murderer's identity was a surprise for me too because (view spoiler)[ he wasn't mentioned a lot in the story either. (hide spoiler)] I will still read Bohjalian's future novels. This one just wasn't a favorite for me.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Erin

    I felt like this book could have been much better. The characters were well developed, and the story was interesting, but somehow it fell flat for me. It flip flops back and forth between 1944 and 1955 with two story lines containing the same family, the Rosetis. The landscape was well done, I could easily picture Italy during and after the Second World War. It was nice to read about WWII and the Nazis from a different point of view, from the Italian front. The author did a good job of showing h I felt like this book could have been much better. The characters were well developed, and the story was interesting, but somehow it fell flat for me. It flip flops back and forth between 1944 and 1955 with two story lines containing the same family, the Rosetis. The landscape was well done, I could easily picture Italy during and after the Second World War. It was nice to read about WWII and the Nazis from a different point of view, from the Italian front. The author did a good job of showing how awful they were to the Italians, even though they were supposed to be on the same side. There was also a little Monuments Men action in there with the taking and protecting of Italian masterpieces. However, the conclusion was highly anticipated (I stayed up late finishing it last night because I wanted to know whodunit) but not at all exciting. I really didn't like it, and I felt like it left a lot of questions unanswered. Or at least I satisfied. It's still a decent read, but it could have been a five star review if the author had tried a little harder.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    Ultimately this novel for me was about survival. It is about the things we do or don't when placed in horrific circumstances and then the unforeseen consequences of those actions. It had a little of everything, mystery, romance, violence.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    The thing is, the rifle sat there all night. A page turner for sure but disappointing in the end. Hard to feel sorry for some of the characters. It's true, some of them are compelling, especially Franscesca. But I don't think it's possible to figure out who the killer is because SPOILER Alert (finished at bottom). Post review that led me to read it: " Setting his story in the glorious Italian hills south of Florence, the author switches back and forth from the mid-1940s, while the war is raging, The thing is, the rifle sat there all night. A page turner for sure but disappointing in the end. Hard to feel sorry for some of the characters. It's true, some of them are compelling, especially Franscesca. But I don't think it's possible to figure out who the killer is because SPOILER Alert (finished at bottom). Post review that led me to read it: " Setting his story in the glorious Italian hills south of Florence, the author switches back and forth from the mid-1940s, while the war is raging, to the mid-’50s, when the murders take place. Interspersed throughout the story are more reports from the killer, who has already made it clear from Page 1 that he — or she — is out to destroy the remaining members of an entire family. The alternating time frame keeps the reader suspicious of everyone, but whether likable or loathsome, Bohjalian’s characters are utterly compelling. In 1943, the Villa Chimera, owned by the noble Rosati family, is visited by a German officer and an Italian major. Cristina, the Rosatis’ winsome 18-year-old daughter, and their daughter-in-law Francesca (who, as we know, will be the killer’s first victim) are informed by the soldiers that select artistic treasures “may have to be moved to Germany for safeguarding until the end of the war.” Although Francesca understands that “safeguarding was a euphemism for theft,” she nonetheless knows she must take the soldiers to the “small Etruscan tomb” that was uncovered on the property. “It seems there were Germanic tribes here.And the Reichsführer is interested in the origins of the race.” Believing the “small tomb” to be a large necropolis, the Nazis move in, looking for valuable artifacts. And as the Allies get closer, the pastoral setting of the villa, with its olive groves and verdant slopes, becomes a German encampment. Fast forward to 1955: The case of the serial killer who’s targeting the Rosatis is being investigated in Florence by Chief Inspector Paolo Ficino. Working closely with him is Serafina Bettini, “the only woman in the small homicide unit, and despite her work with the partisans in 1943 and 1944 — when, in fact, she was a teenager — the men still treated her with either ham-handed attempts at chivalry or outright condescension.” Even with disfiguring scars on her back and neck caused by a fiery explosion in her teens, she is as beautiful as she is bold. Paolo hesitates to take her to the crime scene, where “someone had cut out the heart from a woman’s chest,” but when he does and describes the villa where the victim once lived, Serafina recognizes it as the place where she suffered her burns. Memories of the past begin to pull her into turbulent emotional territory The cast continues to expand, time frames seem to converge, and the killer is still at large. But the book’s payoff is greater than figuring out whodunit. Bohjalian repeatedly confronts us with the moral dilemmas of wartime. For example, as Antonio Rosati grapples with the ignoble imperative of having to coexist with their German “partners,” he muses: “We make compromises. We look the other way. Then, when it’s over, we can’t look at ourselves in the mirror.” His daughter Cristina recalls a canto from Dante: “My family,” she thinks with disgust, “is commingling with the cowardly angels. We will pay. We will all pay.” “The Light in the Ruins” was inspired by a memoir written by the marchesa Iris Origo that “chronicled life on her sun-drenched Tuscan estate when the nightmare of the Second World War rolled like a tsunami across her and her husband’s lands.” In this novel, Bohjalian contemplates painful choices while offering a tour-de-force murder mystery, heartbreaking romance and a dazzling denouement that will tear your heart out." ...no one even knew the person had survived the war!

  19. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    For this book to have so many characters I felt that the character development was weak. You get some build up to this murder mystery only to be let down considerably. I felt no connection to this book and overall was disappointed. I have another of his books on my list to read so I'll try again. Just never really enjoyed the book, it felt like too much work to read with no satisfaction after completion.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Lynne

    An interesting telling of an historical event that is not well known.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Joyce

    Well, this was not for me. Generally, I'm not a big fan of murder mysteries, nor war. However, this book initially appealed to me for its setting in Italy at the end of WWII and I keep thinking that I'll come around to this genre if I just give it a chance. Oh well. However, I'm getting to know myself better.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Diane

    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 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.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Donna

    This was historical fiction meets mystery. I like both of those genres so this book worked for me. The story unfolded in war-torn Italy. It toggled back and forth from 1943 and 1955. The characters felt well thought out. Even with this being historical fiction, it was a very contemporary telling of the story. I actually liked that. It was unexpected and seemed to work. I also enjoyed the descriptions of Italy, of the people, both emotionally and physcially and of the effects of war on the people This was historical fiction meets mystery. I like both of those genres so this book worked for me. The story unfolded in war-torn Italy. It toggled back and forth from 1943 and 1955. The characters felt well thought out. Even with this being historical fiction, it was a very contemporary telling of the story. I actually liked that. It was unexpected and seemed to work. I also enjoyed the descriptions of Italy, of the people, both emotionally and physcially and of the effects of war on the people.

  24. 4 out of 5

    ☕️Kimberly

    4.5 I requested to review The Light of the Ruins by Chris Bohjalian for three reasons. I have loved every book Chris has ever written, it’s set in Italy and takes place during and after WWII a period in history I find fascinating. Once again Bohjalian delivered and I found myself swept up in the murder mystery, the history of the Rosatis family and Germany’s impact on Italy and its people. Three word review: captivating, dark and breathtaking. The tale begins in 1955 Florence, Italy with a grueso 4.5 I requested to review The Light of the Ruins by Chris Bohjalian for three reasons. I have loved every book Chris has ever written, it’s set in Italy and takes place during and after WWII a period in history I find fascinating. Once again Bohjalian delivered and I found myself swept up in the murder mystery, the history of the Rosatis family and Germany’s impact on Italy and its people. Three word review: captivating, dark and breathtaking. The tale begins in 1955 Florence, Italy with a gruesome murder. Here we meet Serafina Bettini. She is a detective and the only woman on the force. She is both beautiful and scared. Her scars run deep inside and out. As she investigates the case brings up memories of her past and the final years of the war. The case has her revisiting 1943 and the noble lineage of the Rosatis family. The tale that unfolds gives us an intimate look at this family, the countryside, Bettini, and into the mind of a killer. Bohjalian delivers memorable characters and shares all of their idiosyncrasies. Serafina Bettini is an interesting and dark character. As a detective she is quite insightful and I enjoyed how she pursed the case. Her personal life is complicated, and those around her may think they know her but most will never see past the glamour she has so carefully constructed. Her flat mate perhaps knows her best, and he helped reveal the darker facets of her personality. I pitied her but also found her to inspiring. The Rosatis family was beautifully revealed to us. We saw the toll the war has on them, the dynamics of their family and believe me you will become attached as they tug and rip at your heart. Christina the only daughter, dubbed by locals as the princess, came of age during the war and although sheltered, felt the effects it had. Her story was touching and I felt for her. We meet a young German soldier and I liked how Bohjalian was able to show both the patriot side of him and the man within the uniform. He shares their forbidden love from the sweet side to the dark and I was completely enthralled. German soldiers, other members of the Rosatis family, partisans and those Serafina interviewed helped to give substance to the tale(s) as they unfolded. While the tale was told in third person, the author gives us a first person perspective from the killer and it was terrifying to glimpse inside his mind. I really enjoy the pacing of The Light in the Ruins and the panoramic view the author gave us of Italy during and after the war. This novel didn't have quite the depth of Sandcastle Girls but I think it will make it appeal to a larger audience. Usually when a novel deals with the past and present I find I enjoy the past more, but he made both parts of the story compelling keeping me equally enthralled. The time periods alternate back and forth and it flowed effortlessly. Once again the author has done his research making this fiction come to life with historical facts. 1943-44 was a difficult time for Italy. Germany who declared themselves ally to Italy slowly became occupier. Citizens were divided in loyalties and others just did whatever was necessary for the safety of their families. Bohjalian brought all of this to life and captured both the beauty and the pain of this era. Fast forward to 1955 and we see Italy after the war, and what happen to the Rosatis family; the cost of the war evident in their faces. I found Serafina’s story fascinating and enjoyed how the details were slowly revealed to us. The author didn't gloss over the fact that both war and murder are ugly; instead he shows us all sides from the residents to the occupiers. Those who enjoy WWII historical fiction will find this telling to be realistic. The murder ties the characters together and was clever and compelling. The identity of the killer had me guessing until almost the end, when the pieces clicked for me before the reveal and it felt very genuine. The tale wrapped up nicely and I closed the book feeling like I knew the characters personally. While parts of the tale where dark I felt light for having read it. I have always wanted to travel to Italy to see our ancestor's home and the author has me yearning to see Tuscany. Copy received in exchange for unbiased review and originally published @ Caffeinated Book Reviewer

  25. 4 out of 5

    Lyn (Readinghearts)

    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 Tusca 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.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Larraine

    Billed as a "literary thrilled," this novel travels back and forth in time between 1944 and 1955 in Italy. It's 1944. The Germans know the end is near. As one German officer says, only Hitler thinks otherwise. Mussolini is dead, the Italians have surrendered. Now they are occupied by their former allies. In 1955 Francesca Rosati, widow of Marco Rosati, eldest son of the Marchese Alberto Rosati, is murdered. Her heart is removed and placed in an ashtray next to her body. At first it seems random. Billed as a "literary thrilled," this novel travels back and forth in time between 1944 and 1955 in Italy. It's 1944. The Germans know the end is near. As one German officer says, only Hitler thinks otherwise. Mussolini is dead, the Italians have surrendered. Now they are occupied by their former allies. In 1955 Francesca Rosati, widow of Marco Rosati, eldest son of the Marchese Alberto Rosati, is murdered. Her heart is removed and placed in an ashtray next to her body. At first it seems random. However when Francesca's mother-in-law is murdered in the same way, it becomes obvious that someone is going after the Rosati family. As the book progresses we learn that both Marco and his younger brother, Vittore, are reluctant soldiers in the Italian army. They manage to keep their contempt for the Germans veiled. However, their father, the Marchese entertains Germans in his home although he doesn't really have much choice in the matter. Later, the Germans move into his home, and the entire family become prisoners. However, many of the people living in the nearby town view the family with contempt because of their association with the Germans. Meanwhile, their younger sister, 19 yr old Cristina, has fallen in love with a young German soldier who doesn't seem to be like other Germans. He is from Dresden which, if you know history, was leveled by the British more as an act of vengeance than anything else. This also increases the contempt that the people of the town feel toward the Rosati family. The two Italian detectives investigating the murders as a team are a duo that is unheard of in the Italian police force at the time. One of them, Serafina, is a woman, a former partisan, who was horribly burned and nearly died. She carries the scars not just on her body but in her heart. This was an interesting story of a turbulent time. It's all about choices. Toward the end one of the characters says that we always have choices. Maybe so, but when they are all equally terrible, what do you do? I liked the book well enough, but in the end there was something lacking here. I read a review that said that the author's character development was lacking. I think that was it. Generally when I read an author who is new to me and enjoy a book, I'll plan to read others. I probably won't do that in this case- even if he is a NY Times Best Selling author!

  27. 5 out of 5

    Maine Colonial

    Two time periods alternate chapters in this story: 1943/44 and 1955. To say that Italy was in flux in 1943/44 would be an understatement. The war was turning against the Axis, and it was clear Italy would become a battleground. Germany, ostensibly Italy's ally, tore off the disguise of friend and became an occupier. Former enthusiastic supporters of the Fascist Blackshirts were hedging their bets. Anti-fascist partisans prowled the hills, sabotaging the German war effort. Ordinary Italians just Two time periods alternate chapters in this story: 1943/44 and 1955. To say that Italy was in flux in 1943/44 would be an understatement. The war was turning against the Axis, and it was clear Italy would become a battleground. Germany, ostensibly Italy's ally, tore off the disguise of friend and became an occupier. Former enthusiastic supporters of the Fascist Blackshirts were hedging their bets. Anti-fascist partisans prowled the hills, sabotaging the German war effort. Ordinary Italians just tried to weather the storm. For the noble Rosati family, living in the Villa Chimera in the Tuscan hill country near Florence, the harsh reality of war could still almost be ignored. Cristina, 18 years old, took daily rides on her beloved horse, went swimming in the pool with her young niece and nephew, and shared meals and wine with her sister-in-law and her parents. Her two brothers were in the army, but Vittore was nearby, in Florence, and Marco in Sicily. Maybe the war would be over soon and they could all be together once again. But the turmoil of Italy, as the war drew to its cataclysmic end, plays out in microcosm at the Villa Chimera. There are angry murmurs in the village, and even among some family members, about Antonio Rosati's having Germans as guests at the Villa Chimera. Now, one of those German guests and his own daughter Cristina seem to be falling in love. As the fighting between the Germans and the Allies and partisans intensifies, the Tuscan hills become a battleground and the Villa Chimera transforms from a haven to a pawn of war. Ten years after the war's end, Serafina Bettini is one of very few female police officers in Italy, and definitely the only homicide detective. Together with her partner and mentor, Paolo Ficino, she is investigating the shocking case of a killer targeting the Rosati family. This killer, whose chilling voice appears at the start of the 1955 chapters, has already slaughtered two members of the family and cut out their hearts. The killer tells us that the job won't be finished until all the descendants of Antonio Rosati are wiped out. Serafina's investigation will bring her back to the Tuscan hills where she fought alongside her partisan comrades, and memories of the battle that left her scarred in body and mind. I tore through The Light in the Ruins in just two sittings. Bohjalian deftly brings his large cast of characters to life. They are complex and flawed; the Rosatis put into a nearly impossible situation that forces us to ask ourselves what we would have done in their situation. In mystery fiction, it's almost a cliché at this point to have the killer's monologue interspersed in the story, but it didn't feel that way in this book. Instead, each time the killer speaks, it ratchets up the tension as another Rosati is stalked and we receive tantalizing hints about the killer's motivation and identity. Alternating chapters between two different time periods is also a commonplace in novels now, but the technique is used to good effect here. The story of Serafina and the Rosatis in 1955 shows us the scars of the war, and the 1943/44 chapters vividly illustrate how they were earned. The Light in the Ruins is a gripping, suspenseful and haunting historical novel that should appeal to regular readers of Bohjalian's work and fans of historical novels and mysteries. Hardcore mystery readers might quibble at the book's relative lack of investigative detail, but I think most would welcome a series featuring Serafina Bettini. Disclosure: I received a free review copy from Netgalley.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Barbara

    I have read most of Bohjalian's books and a few stand out. Skeletons at the Feast was the first and continues to be my favorite. It also is his best book about WWII. As usual, I will not give a synopsis of this novel here. It is easy to locate elsewhere. The Light in the Ruins , Chris Bohjalian’s carefully researched and written historical novel, alternates with the mid-'40s, during the war,to a later time in the mid-’50s, when brutal murders are committed. Also interjected in this telling is the I have read most of Bohjalian's books and a few stand out. Skeletons at the Feast was the first and continues to be my favorite. It also is his best book about WWII. As usual, I will not give a synopsis of this novel here. It is easy to locate elsewhere. The Light in the Ruins , Chris Bohjalian’s carefully researched and written historical novel, alternates with the mid-'40s, during the war,to a later time in the mid-’50s, when brutal murders are committed. Also interjected in this telling is the voice of the unknown murderer. This style of narration often causes some confusion for the reader about character identification. Neverthelesss, one easily becomes drawn into the mystery. Bohjalian’s characters are mostly clearly drawn and compelling. The book’s finesse is greater than determining the savage killer. The tale confronts us with the moral dilemmas of wartime. It makes one think of Italy's questionable role during this war. In this novel, we view painful choices while experiencing literary suspense, heartbreaking romance and a broad variety of human emotion. The Tuscan countryside is beautifully envisioned in this setting. I had difficulty determining whether to give this book 3 or 4 stars, but the quality of the writing made my decision.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Judy

    Sometimes, well actually often, I come across coincidences in my reading. This time it was a back to back occurrence. I finished Daughter of Silence published in 1961, then read The Last Man Standing, followed immediately by The Light in the Ruins. All three novels are set in the Tuscany region of Italy. The first and the third concern murders committed as revenge with a taint of vendetta and roots buried in World War II; the middle one is set in the future. It was like spending a century in Tus Sometimes, well actually often, I come across coincidences in my reading. This time it was a back to back occurrence. I finished Daughter of Silence published in 1961, then read The Last Man Standing, followed immediately by The Light in the Ruins. All three novels are set in the Tuscany region of Italy. The first and the third concern murders committed as revenge with a taint of vendetta and roots buried in World War II; the middle one is set in the future. It was like spending a century in Tuscany. The Last Man Standing was the most impressive of the three. Where Daughter of Silence was overly wordy, The Light in the Ruins featured smooth, easy prose and told a better story but though I was kept guessing about who committed the murders, it was too simply written. Neither one was strong on characterization. Picky, I know. I sound like a judge on American Idol. Thanks to a comment on my review of Daughter of Silence, I have learned that I have better books by Morris L West to look forward to. The Light in the Ruins was the first book I've read by Chris Bohjalian. At this point I would read him again if I was stuck somewhere without any books but ones written by him. Unless someone can recommend a better book by Bohjalian I am moving on.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Cher

    2.5 stars. A historical fiction mystery set in Tuscany during WWII that was enjoyable but lacking any sort of literary magic. I was not able to guess who the serial killer was, which was nice, but once it is revealed, it seems the only way the reader could ever deduce "whodunit" is through a lucky guess. That cheapens the mystery aspect for me in some respects. I do think the author painted Tuscany, Florence and Rome well with his descriptions giving this novel an armchair travel quality. If you 2.5 stars. A historical fiction mystery set in Tuscany during WWII that was enjoyable but lacking any sort of literary magic. I was not able to guess who the serial killer was, which was nice, but once it is revealed, it seems the only way the reader could ever deduce "whodunit" is through a lucky guess. That cheapens the mystery aspect for me in some respects. I do think the author painted Tuscany, Florence and Rome well with his descriptions giving this novel an armchair travel quality. If you are looking for a nice historical romance however, I would pick up another book, as the multiple romances within this novel all fell flat for me. I knew who loved who because as a reader I was told such, but I was never made to feel or see that connection between any of the characters. All in all not bad, but not outstanding either. The story takes place in two different time frames set apart by about only a decade. I feel the author did well with labeling what time frame you were in, making it easy to keep this straight. The only thing I believe will be particularly memorable about this novel for me, is the way in which the serial killer performed their revenge on the Rosati family. First sentence: A woman is sitting before an art nouveau vanity, brushing her hair in the mirror.

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