Friday, July 19, 2013

The Light in the Ruins by Chris Bohjalian

I have read quite a few of Bohjalian's novels, most recently The Sandcastle Girls (see previous post).  Following what I consider his masterpiece, I'm not entirely sure what to think of Light in the Ruins.  Set in Tuscany, the story encompasses two time periods:  1943 as the Italian government collapses between the Allies and the Nazis, and then 1955 post WWII Florence.  It straddles two genres as well - historical fiction and mystery - as we see the Rosati family of the past and the investigation of some gruesome murders during the 'today' of the '50's.  On one hand, it was definitely a page turner; Bohjalian has always been able to write a compelling story.  However, I felt some of the parts just didn't fit.  Some things were 'too convenient' involving the mystery.  It almost felt like he wanted to deal with a plethora of plot ideas, and didn't delve deeply enough into any of them.  I found myself asking questions like...is this book about Nazi sympathizers? Or about the Italian resistance?  Or is it a thwarted love story?  Or perhaps a Jo Nesbo gruesome murder mystery?  The setting is fascinating, the characters are richly drawn though not overly likable (except the female detective, who is a 'bad-ass.'), and the ending satisfies, but ultimately, I enjoyed the Italian WWII book by Mary Doria Russell's,  Thread of Grace, much more than this one and would recommend that as a more realistic approach to the intricacies of Italy's role in the war.

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