The Light in the Ruins

The Light in the Ruins

by Chris Bohjalian


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. Eighteen-year-old Cristina spends her days swimming in the pool, playing with her young niece and nephew, and wandering aimlessly amid the estate’s gardens and olive groves. But when two soldiers, a German and an Italian, arrive at the villa asking to see an ancient Etruscan burial site, the Rosatis’ bucolic tranquility 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: Serafina Bettini, an investigator with the Florence police department, has her own demons. A beautiful woman, Serafina carefully hides her scars along with her haunting memories of the war. But when she is assigned to a gruesome new case—a serial killer targeting the Rosatis, murdering the remnants of the family one-by-one in cold blood—Serafina finds herself digging into a past that involves both the victims and her own tragic history.

Set against an exquisitely rendered Italian countryside, The Light in the Ruins unveils a breathtaking story of moral paradox, human frailty, and the mysterious ways of the heart.

The Light in the Ruins is an interesting story of murder, revenge, art preservation, and survival during war-torn Italy. The Rosatis were once a wealthy Italian family of noble lineage that barely survived World War II. Ten years after the end of the war someone is determined to kill the remaining members and Serafina, the only female homicide detective in Florence, is assigned the case. What follows is a beautiful story of how war changes everything.

I love how the plot gracefully jumps between two time frames: 1955 and the last two years of the Second World War. Bohjalian expertly provides multiple character perspectives and utilizes the flashbacks to build the perfect level of tension and suspense. Usually it is the mystery that keeps me focused on a novel but The Light in the Ruins is different. Instead, I was focused on the moral questions presented by Bohjalian. These included: what do you do when you find yourself allied with the wrong people? And how do you move on when you’ve experienced so many terrible things? Don’t get me wrong; the mystery was good! And I even enjoyed the romance between Cristina and her German soldier, but it was the moral questions that kept me reading. I also want to note that the end tied everything together perfectly (which is awesome) and that I love how Serafina’s personal history wove in and out of the Rosatis’ story.

The only thing I can complain about is the pacing. The Light in the Ruins just reads slow. I first picked up the novel in hardback at the local library and eventually had to return it half finished. I am not normally the type who will go years without finishing a story but the pacing made it hard to come back. The good thing is the story was interesting enough for me to eventually come back and I finished it as an audiobook. This format was perfect in my opinion.

I recommend The Light in the Ruins for lovers of historic mysteries. The setting is beautiful and the topics thought provoking. It provides an interesting look at the struggle to protect Italian art during the war, while also forcing readers to evaluate the political, physical, and moral struggles of Italian citizens surviving the Nazi regime.

Have you read The Light in the Ruins? What are your favorite historic mysteries?




YouTube Videos?

YouTube review videos will be a new feature on History and Mystery. These 5-10 minute videos are designed to bring more nonfiction and historical fiction reviews to BookTube. Each video will be uploaded to YouTube each Thursday and there will be a blog post with a link to video on the same day. 

So why doesn’t this post contain a video?

Because I’m new to YouTube and am slowly learning the ropes! Don’t worry; my first two videos will be up on Monday. Until then, I recommend you check out Reagan of Peruse Project. She also loves historical fiction!

Thanks for your patience!

Letters Home: 1944-1945

Letters Home: 1944-1945
Women Airforce Service Pilots
by Bernice ‘Bee’ Falk Haydu


 In February of 1944 Bernice Falk was accepted into the Women Airforce Service Pilots of World War II (WASP).  Her mother saved the letters Bee wrote home describing her training and tour of active duty.  They tell a fascinating storyof her military experiences and some of the problems she had to overcome in order to become and remain a professional pilot.  She explains how aviation and piloting continued to be an important part of her life while rearing a family who all learned to love flying.  She also chronicles the WASP struggle to be recognized as veterans during her term as president of their organization.

I was having a difficult time finding a book to share after finishing my thesis last week and starting Camp NaNoWriMo this week. I wanted something uplifting and inspirational for the 4th of July and then I remembered a gem that holds a cherished spot on my shelves.

I purchased my copy of Letters Home from Bee Haydu at the EAA Airventure Fly-In in Oshkosh, Wisconsin a few years ago.  I was inspired by the eighty year old woman and her flight stories.  Letters Home is a collection of personal letters from Bee to her mother during her flight training with the Women Airforce Service Pilots, or WASPs.  The WASPs were ferry pilots for the United States during World War II and Bee includes informational passages about the WASPs, World War II aviation, and the role of female pilots.   She provides readers with a detailed description of life during the early 1940s, when these women were fighting against social norms to fly.  Letters Home documents how Bee followed her dreams into the sky and the life of flight that followed.

Her story is an inspiration to me because I am a fellow female aviator, but I believe non-pilots would enjoy this spunky woman’s story.  I have been blessed to speak with Bee Haydu on multiple occasions, and have heard more stories each time.  Haydu and her fellow veterans are part of America’s greatest generation and her story is a perfect read on America’s Independence Day.  Letters Home can be found on Amazon and please visit the WASP Museum to learn more about the daring female pilots of World War II.

Let me know if you have any questions about the WASPs and aviation.  Happy Fourth of July everyone!



Hello fellow readers! Sorry its been so long, but I have some exciting news! Sand Between the Pages is getting a makeover!

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I have had a wonderful time sharing book reviews over the last couple of years, but its time for a change. Don’t worry; you’ll still get to read reviews, but I will be focusing on specific genres from now on. See, just days ago I realized it was officially two years since this happened…


And I realized how much I missed history and reading nonfiction. I have been ignoring what I loved most about grad school: HISTORY! So I decided it was time to getting back to my passions.

Sand Between the Pages will now be History and Mystery: Book Reviews by Lindsay. I will be sharing reviews on nonfiction and historical fiction. I will also be sharing video reviews on my new YouTube channel, History and Mystery. (It is still under construction but will be up in the next couple of days!)

I will also have a set schedule for posts:

Monday: A once a month post about period tv shows or documentaries. 

Tuesday: My written book review. 

Thursday: A link to my YouTube review. 

Friday: Posts about historic events. 

I can’t tell you how excited I am about the new direction! It’s nice to get back to be aspect of what makes me me! Welcome to History and Mystery!

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