Nicole~

The Light in the Ruins - Chris Bohjalian

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's obscure past may have some fateful and deadly links to the Rosatis.

This was a suspenseful, wartime historical novel with a believable mix of characters from every class, painting a time when horrific actions were made under duress, and the subsequent backlash resulting from those actions.
Could such actions be justifiable in the face of one's survival or utter demise? The question that kept circulating throughout the novel was: "Did they have a choice?"
For the one who lost everything in the war: "we always have choices."

"Those were messy years. We all made friends and we all made enemies. Most of us did whatever it took to stay alive. By 1944, if the Germans weren't lining you up against a wall and shooting you for protecting the partisans, the partisans were lining you up against a wall and shooting you for collaborating with the Germans".


Chris Bohjilian's well written story gave me a solid sense of a family's strength tested in the wake of destruction, of undeniable need for revenge and retribution, of forgiveness for actions and choices made in the hell of war; to treasure what remains, and search for the light in the ruins.