Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Light in the Ruins by Chris Bohjalian

In 1943, Italy is in chaos as the Second World War begins to spill into the previously peaceful countryside.   Still, life goes on.  Eighteen-year-old Cristina Rosati loves horses and swimming and playing with her niece and nephew on the grounds of the family’s Tuscan villa.  But when German officers in Florence begin to take an interest in the Etruscan tombs on the Rosati estate, things begin to change.  The Rosatis become hopelessly entangled with the Nazis, and Cristina falls in love with a young German officer.
In 1955, the war may be over, but the scars remain on both the land and the people.  Detective Serafina Bettini is assigned to investigate the horrific murder of Cristina’s sister-in-law.  She suspects that the murder may relate to the war somehow, but uncovering exactly what that connection is will lead her into her own forgotten past.
Moving seamlessly between the war years and 1955, Bohjalian’s latest novel unfolds a compelling mystery with enough twists and false leads to satisfy plot lovers, and with compelling characters, particularly Serafina.  The wartime situation in Italy was incredibly complex, but Bohjalian is able to pare it down to the essence of the conflict in this story of one family’s attempt to survive, and the lasting consequences of choices.
If you enjoy books like The Light in the Ruins that bring together two eras to solve a crime or mystery, try Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay, The Distant Hours by Kate Morton,  or A.S. Byatt’s Possession.

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