One of my favorite pastimes is to browse the audible website which is how I found this book. Based on other reviews, I decided to give it a try....someone mentioned they heard high praise of it on NPR which was good enough for me. It took me an hour or so to get into it....I can honestly say I didn't like the whole Donner party stuff but weathered that storyline well enough. In the end I think this will go down as one of my all time favorite reads. The wonderful reading by Edoardo just enhances the characters. It was a wonderfully and inventively woven tale which ended with me shedding a few quiet tears...though it's not sad.....just the richness and fullness of life.
Short, Simple, No Spoilers
Friends raved about this one and reviewers gave it 5 stars so I took a chance. Beautiful Ruins was not for me. Good premise adding a backstory to the Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor firestorm making Cleopatra, with new characters. Parts were entertaining, but overall, the different points of view were disjointed, not flowing back together and characters were not developed beyond surface aspects. The ideas were present yet not explored with enough detail, creating real people you cared about. The ending was rushed.
Say something about yourself!
I LOVE this book! The title is perfect. Even some ruins are just as beautiful in what they became as how they started out - completely different but beutiful. I???m still crying because???the book ended? the book/end was so well done? because I could have never imagined it would end this way. YES to all.
This book has so many great elements ??? and the narration of Edoardo Ballerini ??? spot on!! I laughed until I cried (especially the Richard Burton scenes ??? but so many others!), and I cried and didn???t want to stop. I lost a whole weekend because I could not stop listening ??? this is a warning. The only critical thing I can say about it is some parts start at the end and work back, some parts don???t, but in the end it was perfect. Rest assured you end up knowing what you need to know ??? and I would NOT change a thing. DO NOT SKIP THE EPILOG.
I would buy this again if I had to; thank goodness I can listen to it as many times as I want. Thank you Jess Walter and Audible!
Jess Walter - I will read anything you write from now on (I say that now...:).
The best review
I can find a book to love in any genre -- a beautifully written classic, an interesting mystery or sci-fi, a trashy romance. Bring it!
STORY (fiction) - Ruins, yes, but beautiful? Let's see, the setting in Italy sounds beautiful. Then there's beauty in...um, there's beauty in... sorry, can't think of anything else! This book is about multiple characters in multiple time periods who are down and out, period. Their relationships, their careers, their dreams, everything. Some just drown themselves in booze. Others have fighting spirits and good intentions but are still caught in downward spirals. The final scene with Pasquali and Dee is AMOST beautiful, but even that has a painful undertone.
The characters are all loosely connected by the American movie industry or by a tiny hotel in an Italian cliffside village but, when all is said and done, their stories don't come together in any meaningful way. I did, however, enjoy the book. The characters may be down and out, but that doesn't mean their stories are boring or depressing. There was enough going on to hold my interest. The book does jump around between time periods and characters, but I didn't find it hard to follow.
PERFORMANCE - As always, Edoardo Ballerini was superb!! Love his Italian accent and his performance of Richard Burton. Perfection!
OVERALL - There are a few brief descriptions of sexual situations and a small amount of cursing. Even though this book is highly rated and a movie is planned to be made, I don't necessarily recommend it. As I said, I was entertained, but I'm not really sure why. It's probably written for listeners who are more literary than I am and I'm probably missing the whole point. Oh, well.
So many good reviews on this book and talk about uneventful & flat. I kept waiting for something interesting to happen and no deal.... If your looking for a snoozer this is the book for you!
"Never trust anyone who has not brought a book with them." --Lemony Snicket
Until Beautiful Ruins, I had never read any of Jess Walter’s work, nor listened to any of Edoardo Ballerini’s performances. But when I started listening to their masterful collaboration I got the same feeling I did when listening to Water for Elephants and The Help for the first time. There’s something special here, without a doubt. Ballerini caught my attention right away, as the novel starts out with a description of the Cinque Terre along Italy’s coast and is made even more beautiful by his impeccable Italian. Walter speaks of intersecting lives and flips back and forth between present-day Hollywood and the Italian Riviera of the 1960s, telling a captivating story of love, disillusionment, friendship, and the realities of responsibility that I won’t soon forget (and won’t stop recommending until everyone I know has a similar soft spot in their heart for Pasquale Tursi!).
Next up...everything else that Jess Walter has written and Edoardo Ballerini has narrated!
Wine, food and travel writer, editor, and aspiring novelist.
Edoardo Ballerini is a great reader. He uses such different voices for each of the characters that it's almost as though there are multiple narrators. And his Italian is impeccable.
The first transition from Italy to Hollywood is startling in its change of tone.
Dynamic characterization and great accents — Italian, Welsh, Scotch, Californian.
I think most people would say Pasquale, but for me it was Dee, less for what she said or did than how the cast of characters reacts to her, and the way their lives are changed by coming in contact with her. But also for the way she ages.
I loved this book because of the different styles of writing (the chapter of a novel within the novel, the first act of a play, the first chapter of a memoir, the movie pitch), the way the writer changes tone from Italy to Hollywood, from the past to the present. Each chapter is compelling. Every character is individual and distinct. And though it could have played out as a vapid romance, Jess Walter took it to a much higher philosophical plane.
I am a 65-year-old psychologist, married for 25 years, with two sons who are 25 and 22. I love reviewing the books and the feedback I get.
This is one of the most beautiful and entertaining works I have read in a very long time. I had never heard of Jess Walter, but I sure will watch for him now. I had heard the voice(s) of Edoardo Balerini, reading Lou Berney's Gutshot Straight, and I loved the narration. Balerini's Italian is magical. The language just flows off his tongue with such gorgeous melodies and passages that you just want to visit Italy right now. The story itself is very complex (Braided is the author's word for the structure, and, duh, it is the perfect word.) The book follows the lives of a few Italians who live in a tiny village called Porto Vergogna, a place so small that it can only be reached by fishing boat. The other characters are Americans. Deborah Moore is a tall, beautiful actress who is sent to the town for spurious reasons. Rome is lit up by the filming of Cleopatra, and the world is lit up by the romance of Liz Taylor and Richard Burton. Many other characters come into and out of the lives of the protagonists, and the book spans the time between 1962 and the present. The writing is extremely skillful. Several chapters are written in different voices, and Walter manages this feat beautifully. I loved this book without qualification. It is full of life, hope, sadness, genuine redemption and most of all, love. I cannot imagine an Audible reader not loving this book.
Yes, I'd try another book from this authors.
This book was entertaining but in no way should it be compared to "The Help". It caught my attention but it wasn't a book I couldn't stop listening to. I gave it three stars because it was just alright. This is the first time I ever wrote a review and I am doing so because I was duped into listening and perhaps I can save someone else the $$$ or a credit.
Addicted to Audible!
I am not sure I would have loved this book as much if I had read it, but listening was a wonderful experience! The Narrator was superb and I was transported to Italy, America and back many times. I did not find the switching between past and present difficult to follow as I do in other books. I enjoyed the intertwined stories and the way they were all tied up neatly in the end. Having a daughter who is currently studying film restoration and preservation at UCLA right now also made it quite interesting to me, as that was Claire's background. Great literature - NO, an enjoyable and entertaining listen - YES!!