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Readers' Comments for The Light in the Ruins

In June, a select group of readers who participated in one of our special contests won copies of THE LIGHT IN THE RUINS by Chris Bohjalian. It's set in 1943 and is about the Rosatis, an Italian family of noble lineage, who believe that the walls of their ancient villa will keep them safe from the war raging across Europe. Twelve years later, Serafina Bettini, an investigator with the Florence police department, is assigned to a gruesome case --- a serial killer targeting the Rosatis, murdering the remnants of the family one-by-one in cold blood. She finds herself digging into a past that involves both the victims and her own tragic history. Take a look at some of the readers' comments to give you more insight into this heart-pounding historical thriller --- and make sure to watch out for SPOILERS!

The mystery THE LIGHT IN THE RUINS is a heart-wrenching story about the impact of war. The reader is quickly drawn into the hardships suffered during World War II in Italy and the struggles of the characters to cope with the aftermath. The story begins with a murder committed in 1955 and keeps the reader interested as it switches from 1943 to 1955 and is told from several points of view. The identity of the killer is unknown right up to the end of the book. Congratulations to the author for accomplishing this!

The characters are interesting and well developed, with both likable and disagreeable characteristics. I especially liked Serafina and would like to read another book about a case she solves.

Having been to Rome and Florence, I was able to picture more vividly the setting of the story. The author quite admirably captures the essence of Italy.

I would recommend this book to others. As a result of reading this book, I will definitely read other books by Chris Bohjalian. I believe my book club members would like this book; it could result in a good discussion about the choices we think we would make when faced with such adversity.

I found it as well researched as all of this author's books have been and I came away feeling I had learned a lot.  

Yes, loved it. I'm a fan of World War history and liked learning more about the war in Italy, the partisans and the Nazi pillaging of the artworks.  

I enjoy historical fiction, especially about World War II, so this was a good choice. I also learned a lot about the war in Italy. Most of the things that happened with the Germans and Italians I had not known before. I had to read carefully many times, because I wanted to understand what was taking place.  

The murder of the Rosatis was horrifying and suspenseful. I thought a couple times that I had figured out who the murderer might be, but I was wrong on both counts. The evildoer was a complete surprise. I have read a lot of books by Chris Bohjalian, and I have never been disappointed.  

Jessica M.
The setting is 1955 Italy. Serafina is a war survivor who now works with the Florence police department. Her time working with the war resistance, as well as her determination, makes her one tough cookie and an ideal member of the force. When a new murder case comes along, she is eager to assist her partner in catching what soon becomes a serial killer.

Someone is targeting members of the Rosati family one by one in a very gruesome manner. Now the job is to protect the rest of the family from the killer while figuring out who has such a vendetta against them.

In 1943, the war has Italy occupied by Germans. In a quest to win favor enough to keep his family fed and out of danger, head of the family, Antonio Rosati, does not make friends in his village by aligning with the Germans. Although in the beginning of the war Germany and Italy were on the same side, it's not long until tables turn and Germans are looked upon as the enemy. Having 18-year-old Cristina Rosati in love with a German soldier certainly turns heads and wags the tongues of the villagers --- with looks and words of contempt at her behavior.

Is that behavior enough to connect the wartime past with the serial killer present? In addition, the Rosati family had a small necropolis on their grounds that the Germans are fascinated with for historical and relic value. Can someone associated with the relics be responsible for the recent deaths?

Bohjalian writes a well-woven tale rich with war history, family responsibilities and what is right and wrong when survival of a family is paramount.

This is a lovely mystery, well written and more than a story. The author describes the setting of the south of Florence so well that we get a travelogue with our mystery. Bohjalian gives us a story about World War II, about the Italian citizens --- noble and not, about the Germans --- loving and not, about people trying to survive and what they will do to survive when war comes to their homes. Then, years later, the awful punishment --- murder --- that is a result of their survival acts.

The book moves back and forth between the war in 1943 and the Florence of 1955, with its first female detective. A delightful stylistic component of the book is the killer's viewpoint. Why is he (or she) killing the people in the Rosati family who have survived the war? Haven't they gone through enough? There is a back-story with the female detective, Bettini. She has a history with this family that is being killed and she cannot remember how she knows them (or is it that she knows OF them and really does not know them at all?). There are a couple of red herrings near the end, but I did not mind them as I normally would because the book is so well written, so descriptive. I enjoyed it all the way to the end.

I just finished reading the book THE LIGHT IN THE RUINS by Chris Bohjalian. I enjoyed reading this book, which was an interesting mix of historical fiction and serial killer suspense. The book moves back and forth between WWII in the 1940s and a police investigation in the 1950s. I gained insight into what it was like for the Italian people when their country sided with Germany during the war. If one has read the WWI novels by Anne Perry and finds it interesting learn about life during times of war, then they would enjoy THE LIGHT IN THE RUINS.

I enjoyed this book completely. It has history, suspense and the human touch. I have passed this on to my daughter, who is enjoying it also. She is 25 and I am 55 --- it is a book for all ages.

I was pleased to receive Chris Bohjalian's THE LIGHT IN THE RUINS. I had read several of his books, the first one being MIDWIVES.

As for THE LIGHT IN THE RUINS, I enjoyed his description of the setting, being somewhat familiar with Italy. The storyline was also interesting --- I like mysteries. However, I found the murder scenes very gruesome and somewhat uncharacteristic of his writing. The ending, and the revelation of the murderer fell flat and seemed contrived, as though he was tired of the story and wanted to end the book as conveniently as possible.

I enjoyed THE SANDCASTLE GIRLS much more, even though there were gruesome scenes there, too, perhaps because I am Armenian and it told of the Armenian Genocide. Bohjalian tells a fine story and I appreciated his writing of the genocide as he has very many devoted readers and they will now be aware of that time in history, which has been kept quiet for too long.

I like the mysterious backdrop of the Italian culture, which Mr. Bohjalian has described in detail. WWII has always been one of my interests and I like that it is one of the time periods in the book. I understand that vacillating between the time periods was necessary to fully develop the plot, but at times it was confusing. Thank you for the opportunity to become familiar with Mr. Bohjalian’s story of suspense mixed with historical intrigue.

I love this book; it stands with my other favorites of this time period, THE BOOK THIEF and THREAD OF GRACE by Doria Russell. The bravery of being a human in a time when inhumanity was rewarded and praised cannot be underestimated. I will recommend this book to my book club and give copies as Christmas gifts. I have read a few of Chris Bohjalian's books and put this above even SANDCASTLE GIRLS.

I did enjoy THE LIGHT IN THE RUINS. I thought it had a wonderful story that kept me engaged throughout. I didn't want to put it down because I was so anxious to find out who the killer was. The story was somewhat familiar because I've read so many books set during WWII that included German occupation. I would definitely read more by Chris Bohjalian. I belong to a book club and have already recommended this book to them.

Like with THE SANDCASTLE GIRLS, Chris Bohjalian has taught me something I didn’t know.  I did not know much about the German occupation of Italy or the extent of the art theft during WWII. The story, switching between times, in this case, WWII and 1955, is my favorite style of historical fiction. I also enjoyed the interjections from the serial killer. The killer was quite gruesome and added a great deal of suspense to the book. I was skeptical about a female policewoman in 1955, but found that Bohjalian made it quite believable. Perhaps it was her past that made it so. A completely enjoyable book. It was a quick read. I breezed through it while at the beach. I would definitely recommend the book to my friends (in fact, I already have) and I will bring it to book club as a choice. 

As usual, I enjoyed Chris Bohjalian's writing --- he certainly cannot be called formulaic. Each and every book is so completely different.

THE LIGHT IN THE RUINS was very interesting --- it gave me a different perspective on the role of Italy during WWII. I was a youngster during those years and somehow had not focused on Italy then. This book brought to mind again the atrocities of that war and the price paid by all.

I will look forward to Mr. Bohjalian's next book and I often recommend him to friends. I do not belong to a book group for I prefer my own choices of books, but I do think this would be a good choice for a group discussion.

I just finished THE LIGHT IN THE RUINS and for the most part, enjoyed it.  However, I don't think this was Bohjalian’s best book. I say this because I had trouble keeping the characters straight. I was constantly saying, "Now, who was she?  Who was he?" I think the problem was the Italian names that made the characters difficult to follow. I enjoyed the murder mystery, but when the perpetrator was revealed, I couldn't remember who he was. That spoiled that part of the book for me. All this being said, I am still a big fan of Chris Bohjalian, have read all his books, and look forward to the next one. 

Unfortunately, I didn't enjoy the book as much as I would have liked. That's the risk in reading new authors, I suppose. The reason I didn't enjoy the book that much was that I couldn't get involved with  the characters. I'm not sure if it was Chris Bohjalian's writing, or the plot, but there wasn't really anything in the book that made me really want to care about the characters or what was happening to them. I would often get confused as he switched between the two time periods, as well. So overall, I had hard time connecting with the characters, and the writing style and plot where a little unclear. Since this was my first Chris Bohjalian novel, I would probably be hesitant to pick up another one, but you never know.