Beautiful Ruins: A Novel

Paperback | June 12, 2012

byJess Walter

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The story begins in 1962. On a rocky patch of the sun-drenched Italian coastline, a young innkeeper, chest-deep in daydreams, looks out over the incandescent waters of the Ligurian Sea and spies an apparition: a tall, thin woman, a vision in white, approaching him on a boat. She is an actress, he soon learns, an American starlet, and she is dying.

And the story begins again today, half a world away, when an elderly Italian man shows up on a movie studio''s back lot—searching for the mysterious woman he last saw at his hotel decades earlier.

What unfolds is a dazzling, yet deeply human, roller coaster of a novel, spanning fifty years and nearly as many lives. From the lavish set of Cleopatra to the shabby revelry of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Walter introduces us to the tangled lives of a dozen unforgettable characters: the starstruck Italian innkeeper and his long-lost love; the heroically preserved producer who once brought them together and his idealistic young assistant; the army veteran turned fledgling novelist and the rakish Richard Burton himself, whose appetites set the whole story in motion—along with the husbands and wives, lovers and dreamers, superstars and losers, who populate their world in the decades that follow. Gloriously inventive, constantly surprising, Beautiful Ruins is a story of flawed yet fascinating people, navigating the rocky shores of their lives while clinging to their improbable dreams.

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From the Publisher

The story begins in 1962. On a rocky patch of the sun-drenched Italian coastline, a young innkeeper, chest-deep in daydreams, looks out over the incandescent waters of the Ligurian Sea and spies an apparition: a tall, thin woman, a vision in white, approaching him on a boat. She is an actress, he soon learns, an American starlet, and she is dying.And the story begins again today, half a world away...

Jess Walter is the author of six novels, including the bestsellersBeautiful RuinsandThe Financial Lives of the Poets, the National Book Award finalistThe Zero, andCitizen Vince, the winner of the Edgar Award for best novel. His short fiction has appeared inHarper's,McSweeney's, andPlayboy, as well asThe Best American Short StoriesandThe Best American Nonrequired Reading. He lives in his hometown of Spokane, Washingto...

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:352 pages, 9 × 6 × 0.88 inPublished:June 12, 2012Publisher:HarperCollinsLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:006220713X

ISBN - 13:9780062207135

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Reviews

Rated 3 out of 5 by from Well written, but choppy This novel was truly beautifully written; but unfortunately it was a bit "ruined" by being entirely disjointed almost until the end. The story basically reads like 3 novellas that ultimately come together. We jump back/forth in time and place between the three, and it takes entirely too long for the stories to intertwine. I did love the bits of Italian dialogue and the translation. I thought the scenes were beautifully described. However there just wasn't enough content for me to recommend this read.
Date published: 2014-01-07
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Not as good as I hoped I just finished this book and found it to be a bit slow and disjointed in parts. I found I did not connect with any of the main characters and I did not like the time and geographical jumping. I did like that Jess Walter wrote about a glorious time in Hollywood history which is not a common subject for novels.
Date published: 2013-05-10
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Disappointing... Story Description: HarperCollins Publishers|June 4, 2012|Trade Paperback|ISBN: 978-0-06-220713-5 The story begins in 1962. On a rocky patch of the sun-drenched Italian coastline, a young innkeeper, chest-deep in daydreams, looks out over the incandescent waters of the Ligurian Sea and spies an apparition: a tall, thin woman, a vision in white, approaching him on a boat. She is an actress, he soon learns, an American starlet, and she is dying. And the story begins again today, half a world away, when an elderly Italian man shows up on a movie studio’s back lot searching for the mysterious woman he last saw at his hotel decades earlier. What unfolds is a dazzling, yet deeply human, roller coaster of a novel, spanning fifty years and nearly as many lives. From the lavish set of Cleopatra to the shabby revelry of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Walter introduces us to the tangled lives of a dozen unforgettable characters: the star struck Italian innkeeper and his long-lost love; the heroically preserved producer who once brought them together and his idealistic young assistant; the army veteran turned fledgling novelist and the rakish Richard Burton himself, whose appetites set the whole story in motion along with the husbands and wives, lovers and dreamers, superstars and losers, who populate their world in the decades that follow. Gloriously inventive, constantly surprising, Beautiful Ruins is a story of flawed yet fascinating people, navigating the rocky shores of their lives while clinging to their improbable dreams. My Review: I was very disappointed in this novel. For all the hype and drum rolls I heard, I expected an interesting and phenomenal read – boy was I wrong! It’s hard to explain but I actually found the story confusing at times and at other times rambling on and on and on but really not going anywhere. I will admit that I skipped and just skimmed through some of the chapters just so my misery could end a tad sooner. Giving an undesirable review of a book bothers me greatly but when I began this book review blog I vowed to be honest. And, just because I didn’t enjoy Beautiful Ruins doesn’t mean that you won’t. I’ve read many glowing reviews so I know a lot of people did enjoy it thoroughly and I sincerely hope that you will too.
Date published: 2012-09-22
Rated 3 out of 5 by from A GOOD SUMMER READ Pasquale lives in the small coastal town of Porto Vergogna. His family has lived there for generations and although Pasquale enjoys his life he wants more and is working on turning his family home into a hotel. One day, while contemplating his future tennis court he sees a young woman step off a fishing boat and start up the steps to the hotel. Certain she has come to the wrong hotel and wants to continue on down the coast to the larger hotels, he greets her and she assures him that she is indeed in the right place. She is meeting someone here. Dee Moray is an actress working on Cleopatra and she is ill. That’s all Pasquale knows about this beautiful stranger. He accepts that because after all, everyone has secrets. Fast forward 50 years to present day Hollywood, and Pasquale has finally come to find out what happened to Dee Moray oh so long ago. This is where the real story of that fateful summer begins. The book flips back and forth between 1962 Italy and present day Hollywood. Combining what several different characters know about the events that summer gives the reader the whole story … complete with some behind the scenes looks at the filming of Cleopatra and cameo appearances by Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor. That’s the main story, but there is a large cast of characters on the fringes of the story (almost too large) and they all tell their stories as well (almost too many stories). Near the end of the book we learn how they are all interconnected, but it is a bit a long haul getting there. Not a bad read, but I have to admit to putting it down a few times in favour of something else and then going back to it as the mood struck.
Date published: 2012-08-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Beautiful, indeed. I had been hearing so many wonderful things about Jess Walters’s Beautiful Ruins that when HarperCollins Canada tweeted that they’d be having a Twitter chat for the book, I just had to pick up a copy. The idea of Italy mixed with that beautiful cover made it a pretty easy sell for me. Of course, when I finished the book and sat down to write this review, I was stuck. The entire book was a mix of SO MANY THINGS. First of all, there’s travel, music, books, movie pitches, acting, movie stars, relationships, Hollywood, Italy, Italian thugs — just to name a few. Second of all, there’s romance, humour, sadness, whimsy, longing, love, etc. And third of all, there’s a HUGE cast of characters. Now, one would think that there would be way too many things to keep track of, but in a weird way, it all works. From the first few pages of the book, when I met Pasquale, a young Italian man with dreams of building a beach in front of his hotel, I was hooked. I loved the dreamy quality of Pasquale’s character. He’s a lover of life, a big dreamer. In fact, a lot of the characters in the book are big dreamers — at least, all the main characters are. That’s one of the wonderful things about the book — not only does it take the reader away to a different place, to different scenery, but it forces the reader to dream along with the characters, which is an amazing thing. The thing that really got me with this book was the fact that every single character had a role — an important role — and even though the cast was huge, it wasn’t hard at all to keep track of who everyone was. There was also a really wonderful blend of romance and whimsy, hilarity and sadness — all of which fit together so perfectly and which really made me want to turn the pages faster. Jess Walter is a pretty amazing writer. I loved how he constantly kept me on my toes as he flipped from Italy in 1962, to Hollywood in the present day, to a book chapter, to a play, to … so many other things! At every chapter end, I didn’t know what to expect next. The passing of time, the mix of old-time whimsy with new-age conveniences, the constant message of patience — it just all worked. Ultimately, the best story of the book – to me, at least — was the story of Pasquale, which was the most romantic and dreamy story of them all. Honestly, I wish I could read more books like this! When I turned the last page, I was so happy to feel content. No loose ends — but just one question left hanging in the air. Of course, if you want to know that, you’ll have to read it yourself!
Date published: 2012-07-14
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Started Great... I wanted to give this book two and a half leaves but that option is not available. I really like the first half of the book but the other half went no where. It almost felt like the author introduced bunch of characters but didn't know what to do with them afterwards.
Date published: 2012-07-12
Rated 4 out of 5 by from The Perfect Summer Read! If you are looking for the perfect summer read, look no further. Beautiful Ruins is your book. It has everything you could want, a love story, an exotic locale, humour, pathos and quirky, interesting characters. The book opens in 1962 in the remote Italian seaside village of Porto Verogna where Pasquale Tursi,the lonely owner of the only hotel there, witnesses the arrival by boat of a beautiful, mysterious blond American actress named Dee Moray. Dee, who at first believes she is dying from cancer, tells Pasquale that she is meeting an unnamed lover who would be arriving in a few days at his hotel. She had just left Rome and the set of the film Cleopatra, starring Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor. He almost instantly falls in love with her. Not long after, a publicist for the film, Michael Deane and the star himself, Richard Burton, arrive looking for the young starlet, Dee Moray. The book then cuts to the present day, fifty years later when an aged Pasquale Tursi arrives at the office of now movie producer Michael Deane, trying to find out what happened to Dee. The book goes back and forth in time introducing other interesting characters to the mix. What results is a great story that you will want to go back to again and again. I highly recommend it.
Date published: 2012-06-25
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Unique and Imaginative The Good Stuff A truly unique and imaginative tale, the Donner party film pitch alone is worth the price of the book Beautifully written, this author has a true gift for characterization I won't lie, I started reading and was worried that I was going to hate it, but it slowly grew on me. This story in a lesser novelists hands would have failed miserably, but Walters has the chops to make it work. This is the type of story I usually do not enjoy, but let me tell you it really is truly beautiful and wise so give it a chance Honest and real, heartrendingly sad, yet hopeful and beautiful Nostalgic - you really feel you are part of 1962 Richard Burton and Liz Taylor are intertwined throughout the story Pasquale is such a richly written and oh so very real and delightful character Darkly funny at the right moments Makes you think about your life and what you want/need Enjoyed how all of the stories came together in a smooth unforced way The Not So Good Stuff Drags a wee bit Depressing at times I personally felt there were too many voices for the story, but that is just my opinion - not a judgement against the story Favorite Quotes/Passages "He didn't think of Heaven as a smiling place. If mortal sinners went to Hell and venal sinners like himself went to Purgatory, then Heaven had to be full of no one but saints, priests, nuns and baptized babies who died before they had a chance to do anything wrong." "In that doomed final month of the marriage - in what felt like a live autopsy of his manhood - Saundra tried to make him feel "better" by insisting it wasn't entirely his fault; he was part of a ruined generation of young men coddled by their parents-by their mothers especially - raised on unearned self-esteem, in a bubble of over-affection, in a sad incubator of phony achievement." "Of course I'd arranged abortions before. I worked in publicity. It was practically on the business card. But this was Italy. Catholic Italy 1962. At that time it would have been easier to get a moon rock." Who Should/Shouldn't Read Not for those looking for a fast paced exciting read, this is one you savor my friends Fabulous for those looking for something just a little bit different 3.75 Dewey's I received this from William Morrow in exchange for an honest review
Date published: 2012-05-25