The Light in the Ruins by Chris Bohjalian
For Christina Rosati, the realities of World War II are distant until the ancient Etruscan burial site on her family’s villa in the Tuscan Hill country becomes of interest to the Germans. Once the villa has drawn the attention of the Nazis, more and more of the Rosati family freedoms and property are taken away. Their villa is commandeered to house German officers, land mines are buried in the surrounding olive groves, and when the Allies arrive, the fleeing Germans bomb much of the villa.
For Serafina Bettini, the horrors of war are front and center. Orphaned by the war, she and her two brothers are part of the Italian resistance until both brothers are executed by the Nazis. Serafina, only a teenager, finds a new family with a few of the other partisans. For the partisans there is very little shelter or food, but there is a strong bond among them as they defend their homeland.
Ten years after the Allies arrive, Christina and Serafina’s lives collide when Christina’s sister-in-law is murdered and Serafina is one of the lead investigators on the case. Christina and Serafina are both trying to move forward from the devastation the war brought into their lives, but the murder forces them to relive those times. They find that even though their experiences and choices during the war are very different, they also share some similarities.
This is another new author for me and I wasn’t sure I’d like the way he alternates between two time periods. But once I started reading, I found that this style works well. The Light in the Ruins is a good novel for anyone who enjoys historical fiction. You’ll find yourself wondering what decisions you would have made in similar circumstances and whether you would have been able to move forward from such adverse situations.
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