Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Light in the Ruins” as Want to Read:
The Light in the Ruins
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Light in the Ruins

3.65  ·  Rating details ·  27,213 ratings  ·  3,139 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
Hardcover, 309 pages
Published July 9th 2013 by Doubleday (first published 2013)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Light in the Ruins, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
This question contains spoilers… (view spoiler)
Linda To me it just means she is still burning herself, she has not healed mentally. She is still a very damaged person as a result of the trauma of the war…moreTo me it just means she is still burning herself, she has not healed mentally. She is still a very damaged person as a result of the trauma of the war and her injuries. I believe it is a form of punishment for being a survivor when so many others did not. I feel this action of burning herself is an affliction akin to cutting. (less)
Dee It is a mystery but also historical fiction set in Italy during WWII and in 1955. Shows the lasting aftermath of the war on residents of Italy.
It is a mystery but also historical fiction set in Italy during WWII and in 1955. Shows the lasting aftermath of the war on residents of Italy.

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.65  · 
Rating details
 ·  27,213 ratings  ·  3,139 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of The Light in the Ruins
Jacki (Julia Flyte)
Oct 19, 2013 rated it it was ok
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
J. Parra
Jul 21, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Nov 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
XxTainaxX Curvy and Nerdy
Dec 22, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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
Elyse  Walters
I see a movie in the making!!!! :)
Jessica Jeffers
Apr 29, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: netgalley, fiction
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
Lisa B.
Nov 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
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
Mar 24, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015, audible-cd
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
Jun 05, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: wwii, italy
4.5 stars
"There is no greater sorrow than to recall our time of joy in wretchedness."


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'
Apr 06, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Diane S ☔
Jan 04, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: roadrallyteamb
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
Marialyce (absltmom, yaya)
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
May 27, 2013 rated it liked it
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
Aug 10, 2014 rated it did not like it
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
Jun 27, 2013 rated it liked it
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
Apr 16, 2017 rated it liked it
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. ...more
Jun 23, 2019 rated it liked it
2.75 stars
Although I consider myself a fan of Bohjalian's books, this story has been my least favorite so far. The descriptive prose was decadent, taking place in the Italian countryside. The WW2 setting had some interesting history about the Italian partisans. BUT....the execution of the plot didn't work for me. The story jumps around quite a bit between the 40's, which focuses on an Italian Marquis' family during WW2, and 50's, which involves a detective trying to stop a murderer from killing
Sep 17, 2013 rated it it was ok
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,
Oct 02, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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.
Mar 28, 2016 rated it really liked it
An interesting telling of an historical event that is not well known.
Jun 08, 2017 rated it it was ok
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. ...more
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 love
This is a dual time line book alternating between WWI in 1944 Italy and 11 years later - 1955 Italy.

1944 - near Florence. We are at the Villa Chimera, magnificent home of Marchese and Marchesa Rosati. They have three children: Marco, fighting in the war; Vittore, the middle child, a bookish boy, a bookish man, a scholar of some sort, an archeologist; and the youngest, Cristina, still living at the villa. Also living at the villa is Francesca, Marco's wife and their two children.

1955 - Rome. Fran
Dec 29, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Nov 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Lyn (Readinghearts)
Jan 04, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Aug 22, 2013 rated it liked it
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.
Jul 16, 2013 rated it it was ok
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
Maine Colonial
May 19, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »

Readers also enjoyed

  • A Castle of Doomsday
  • Thunderstruck
  • Verbena
  • Napoleon: A Life
  • The History of the Medieval World: From the Conversion of Constantine to the First Crusade
  • The Black Swan of Paris
  • Off the Wild Coast of Brittany
  • The Pilgrim
  • The Strange Death of Europe: Immigration, Identity, Islam
  • Talk Italian 1: The Ideal Italian Course for Absolute Beginners
  • A Mackenzie Witch: Collection 3 (Mackenzie Coven Mysteries)
  • Chakras for Beginners: A Guide to Balancing Your Chakra Energies
  • The Black Stiletto (The Black Stiletto #1)
  • Dear Mrs. Bird
  • The Gift of Knowledge / Ttnuwit Atawish Nch�inch�imam�: Reflections on Sahaptin Ways
  • The Bestseller
  • The Book of Lost Friends
  • On Being German: A Personal Journey Into the German Experience
See similar books…
Chris Bohjalian is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of 21 books. His work has been translated into 35 languages and three times become movies.

His forthcoming novel, "Hour of the Witch," arrives on May 4, 2021. It's a novel of historical suspense set in 1662 Boston, a tale of the first divorce in North America for domestic violence -- and a subsequent witch trial.

His most recent novel, “The

Related Articles

  You can’t stop watching. You have things to do, children to feed, even work you get paid for. But the screen…it’s holding you hostage....
53 likes · 13 comments
“The dead were too ...present.” 6 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.” 5 likes
More quotes…