Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Julie's Review: The Light in the Ruins

Summary: From the New York Times best-selling 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 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. ~powells.com

Review: The Light in the Ruins is another wonderful historical mystery by Mr. Bohjalian. What I loved about this novel was that they dual time periods weren't decades apart but a mere 12 years. This meant that the war and feelings about the war were still fresh in people's minds. The side you were on wasn't soon forgotten or lost in family lore.

We are introduced to the Rosati family who were well to do in a small Italian village before the war and then proceed to lose everything after the war. How much were they responsible for the outcome of their lives depends on how much you believe that choice have consequences? Did they deserve the horror that descended upon them? I don't know. In war you try to protect your own. It comes down to survival. Do I think the Rosati's align themselves with the Nazis anymore than other people did in Italy? Maybe, maybe not. Again, I think it's survival. They did what they thought they needed to do and were vilified for it.

The character I felt was most intriguing was Serafina. We kept getting glimpses of her past as her memories were triggered by the case involving the Rosati's. What was her connection with them? Was there a connection with them? We find out very little details of her family and I wanted to know more. Who exactly were they?

This is all against the backdrop of the Nazi occupation and then retreat in Italy. It's is a good refresher of how desperate the Nazis were at the end of the war and for me, who was on their side during the war. It is about history and the penance we pay for the choices we make.

While I might have been a little let down in the ending, it didn't take away from my overall enjoyment of the novel. As usual, Mr. Bohjalian has written a remarkable story.

The Light in the Ruins is out on 7/9/2013.

Final Take: 4/5

Thanks to Doubleday for an ARC of the novel.



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