Beautiful Ruins

Beautiful Ruins

A Novel

Book - 2012
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The acclaimed, award-winning author of the national bestseller The Financial Lives of the Poets returns with his funniest, most romantic, and most purely enjoyable novel yet: the story of an almost-love affair that begins on the Italian coast in 1962 . . . and is rekindled in Hollywood fifty years later.

"Why mince words? Beautiful Ruins is an absolute masterpiece." --Richard Russo

"A ridiculously talented writer." --New York Times
Publisher: New York : Harper, c2012.
Edition: 1st ed.
ISBN: 9780061928123
Characteristics: 337 p. : map ; 24 cm.


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vmeyerson Oct 09, 2017

Jess Walter writes a beautiful story - and makes you feel that you are in southern Italy! Easy read -

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Feb 20, 2021

Very much enjoyed this book. Takes you to Italy.

Feb 10, 2021

A wonderful book. One of the best I have read in a long time.

Jan 29, 2021

This isn’t a book written by the formula, or written in any sort of traditional format. All the jumping around through time and place and a variety of characters’ point of view annoyed the hell out of me in the beginning.

After jumping to Scotland and back to Italy, forty years previous, I began to enjoy the whole adventure. Getting into each character’s head to better understand their actions was fun, especially since from the outset they’re all kind of hopeless.

Except Dee. Dee is the thread through which all the rusty needles pass. She’s the sweet benevolent anchor needed in such a loser-filled journey. She never lets you down, and makes the rest of the grifters and losers seem bearable and funny.

Sometimes it takes a while to fall into a book. This is one of those books. I can’t say I’d recommend it, as the characters were too manic for me to spend any time with, and the plot is kind of simple even with all the charade of jumping around. The writing is witty, though, and deeper than most books built on gimmicks like this one. And who doesn’t want to go to 1950’s movie star Italy in their imagination? And thankfully a complete handful of mostly happy endings, rushed and glossed over, but tied up with a pretty bow. And that satisfaction is what makes it worth reading.

Jul 09, 2020

This book started slowly for me. In fact I wasn’t sure I’d wanted to get through the whole thing but I am glad I did. The ending sort of puts everything into perspective and provides some interesting reflection on how different lives come together.

May 25, 2020

I really enjoyed this book! I thought it was intriguing, interesting, and sweet. It wasn't what I expected, but I was pleasantly surprised. I read it over two days. Personally, I enjoyed the back and forth timeline, spanning years, locations, and subjects. It kept me looking forward to learning more about each character's life and story, and finding out what happens to each person. Don't read too much into the bad reviews - if you are someone who genuinely enjoys reading and seeing characters unfold, I think you'll enjoy this book too!

Nov 24, 2019

L. Hertzel

Feb 24, 2019

This book was amazing. Not just for the story, but for the scenery. It made my husband and I stop in Cinque Terre on our honeymoon :)

A tiny, crumbling Italian village. A dreamy young man. An American actress. A wily film producer. And Richard Burton. What’s not to love? It’s a sweeping, gorgeous narrative spanning decades and generations, and merging old Hollywood and new. I listened to this as an audiobook, and actor Edoardo Ballerini’s narration is outstanding – it’s no wonder Salon named this the best audiobook narration of 2012. (submitted by AA)

Oct 30, 2018

It feels that the author has paid a lot of attention to writing this book. And yes, if I am not mistaken, he was writing it during several years.
Different epochs, different circumstances-but always surprisingly accurate language describing each period of time and emotions of every involved character.
At the end he crumpled a little, trying in a few pages to describe fate of each person.

Aug 24, 2018

A love story that started in the 1960s, that went largely unnoticed until an elderly gentleman brought it back to the attention of those involved years ago. Throw in the mixes of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton's whirlwind love affair, it makes Dee's story so much more complicated and mixed.

The setting is beautiful, in a fairly unknown and forgotten little island village, this is where Dee came to hide from the world when she thought she was "dying", and stays at Pasquale's place. The little village and the people who use to live there and still reside there were interesting and an unusual mix.

While the setting is somewhat memorable, the characters themselves aren't. It was fairly easy to forget them and some were hard to connect beyond what was written. The Donner storyline, with the assistant and guy pitching the story are very forgettable and seems pointless to have in the book, could have done without them and their side story.

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booklady413 May 01, 2015

Page 63: "in most of Europe, the peasant class disappeared thirty, forty years ago, but not in Italy. Finally, after two wars, houses spill into the flats and river valleys outside the city walls. But as the walls come down, so does Italian culture, Carlo. Italy becomes like any other place, over-run with people looking for the 'Italian experience.'"

Sep 19, 2013

“And even if they don't find what they're looking for, isn't it enough to be out walking together in the sunlight?”


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Sep 19, 2013

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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