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The Light in the Ruins

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3.64 of 5 stars 3.64  ·  rating details  ·  16,579 ratings  ·  2,293 reviews
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
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Hardcover, 309 pages
Published July 9th 2013 by Doubleday (first published 2013)
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Peacejanz Absolutely -- many discussion points and interesting to the non-mystery lover, as well. Despite the very beginning, it is a gentle book. Go for it -…moreAbsolutely -- many discussion points and interesting to the non-mystery lover, as well. Despite the very beginning, it is a gentle book. Go for it - especially now that it is out in paperback. peace, janz(less)

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Julia
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 ...more
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
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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
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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
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Jessica
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
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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'
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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
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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
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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
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☮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. ...more
Erin
Jan 10, 2014 Erin rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: WWII and Italy fans
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
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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,
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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
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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.
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 ...more
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.
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Kimba
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
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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
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Mary
Honestly, I'd probably not have bothered with this if I'd read the blurb, but I needed an audio book quickly, and this was one of the first to pop up in my search under "historical fiction." I've read Bohjalian in the past, but I tend to overlook him, and I'm not sure why. He's a good writer, and doesn't seem bound to any certain characters, settings, or themes. Very versatile.

The Light in the Ruins is a murder mystery and family saga set in Italy, and the story unfolds in chapters that alternat
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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
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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 ...more
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
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Katie
I'm so happy to say I won The Light in the Ruins through Goodreads' First Reads giveaway.

When I first started the book, I felt like by page 20 I knew who the killer was. And then about halfway through, Bohjalian surprises me with a little twist (view spoiler) and STILL knocks me out of my chair at the end. I did NOT expect that ending.

I had a great time reading this book. I truly felt like I was one of them: when they screamed, I felt like screaming and whe
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Wanda
29 MAY 2014 -- a good, solid read. I have enjoyed each of the books I have read by Mr Bohjalian and this one was no exception. For me, The Light in the Ruins was addictively readable -- once begun, I could not put it down.
Lucy
May 31, 2014 Lucy rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: ebooks
This is my third Chris Bohjalian book and the third time I am giving his book 3 stars. I really hate the 3 star rating. It is the least descriptive rating available. Did I like it? No. I didn't. I thought the characters were unlikable and bleak. Sure, the setting had them in Italy during the end of World War II, when things were most likely the least hopeful and actions were the most desperate, but the war only partially influences these characters' motives and choices. They are, generally, a se ...more
Eileen Granfors
I wait for new books by Chris Bohjalian the way other people look forward to an exotic vacation. After all, a new book transports us to another world or time or way of life.

THE LIGHT IN THE RUINS brings a variety of genres to mind: it is a war story, a romance, a family story, and a murder investigation.

It is the murder that first hooks us: a psychopath doesn't simply kill a victim. The murderer removes the heart and stages it carefully on her dressing table.

The murders and the murder investiga
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Carol
I don't typically seek out historical fiction, but I do seek out Chris Bohjalian's books. Whether contemporary or historical, he tells a great story. This isn't one his best, but it's definitely worth reading.

The Light in the Ruins is a mystery and a family saga, taking place in 1943 and 1955 Italy. In 1943, the Rosati family struggles with their allegiances (Italy and Germany are allies, but uncomfortably so). In 1955, someone begins killing the surviving members of the Rosati family.

I didn't
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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
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Shelley Fearn
I have enjoyed all of Bohjalian's previous books (I don't think I've missed any) but none so much as this, his latest. It is a splendid blend of mystery, family saga, and historical fiction. And the plot seemingly straight forward at first, seductively leads the reader on through each character's eyes.

I have rarely read novels about the 2nd World War set in Italy. (Bohjalian does recommend other titles at the novel's end.) And this novel, unfortunately is cataloged without a tracing for the war.
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Lyn (Readinghearts)
Jul 24, 2013 Lyn (Readinghearts) rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Donna Jurgens, Katy,
Recommended to Lyn (Readinghearts) by: The author and Sisterhood of the Traveling Book
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 ...more
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Chris Bohjalian is the author of seventeen books, including Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands, arriving July 8, 2014 from Doubleday.

His other books include such New York Times bestsellers as The Light in the Ruins, The Sandcastle Girls, The Night Strangers, Secrets of Eden, Skeletons at the Feast, The Double Bind, Before Your Know Kindness, and Midwives.

Chris's awards include the ANCA Arts and Letters
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More about Chris Bohjalian...
Midwives The Sandcastle Girls The Double Bind Skeletons at the Feast The Night Strangers

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“The dead were too ...present.” 5 likes
“She feared that she’d missed something, because there were so many parallels with her own story, and she could not help but see in her head the small memories her mind would offer as tantalizing, but—in the end unsatisfying, glimpses of what may have occurred.” 3 likes
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