Big mystery lover here! The picture is of my father who is suffering with dementia and my youngest daughter on her wedding day.
I purchased this book on the recommendation of its reader, Edoardo Ballerini. His work on Lou Burney's Gutshot Straight made me a huge fan of his and the author. So I purchased it without knowing the first thing about it. What a treasure!
In my review of "14" I listed Mr. Ballerini as one of the top 4 readers on Audible. Scott Brick being a distant 5th, Edoardo competes for the top spot with Will Patton (James Lee Burke novels), Tom Stechschulte (No Country For Old Men) and Ray Porter (Dawn Patrol). The bottom line is that Ballerini's work is up to the task of this masterpiece of modern literature.
As for the book, I can only say I fell in love with all of it. I loved its history, beauty, tragedy, romance, mystery, characters and storytelling. Does this make you want to listen? I hope so, because it is so much more...
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.
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
Say something about yourself!
*Love don't make things nice - it ruins everything. It breaks your heart. It makes things a mess. We aren't here to make things perfect. We are here to ruin ourselves and to break our hearts and to love the wrong people and die.* [Moonstruck]
The ruination of love, a promising career, a cliff-side village, innocent ideals, a culture, even a handsome youthful face, ...elements that comprise this *beautiful* novel about balancing what we want, with what is best. It is Time that moves the element of Ruin in each case: deceit, vanity, circumstance, ego, and duty--and author Walter perfectly constructs every minute of time in this brilliant book with insightfullness and finesse...my favorite Jess Walter book to date, and one of my favorite novels of the year. A cast of some of the most memorable and endearing characters to come along in a while (and there are a lot of them in this 40 year saga), including the larger-than-life tornado of Liz Taylor and Richard Burton, in a rare supporting role. It is the breathtaking Italian coast that steals the show as the main character -- so perfectly drawn that I remember that sea breeze off the Amalfi and Liguaria coasts like I was there just yesterday. Liz and Dick buzz through this seaside town and these villager's lives like a wreckless speedboat, and the story develops in that ever-growing destructive wake.
This book is cinemascope in text! About as different in subject as you could get from Walter's recent The Financial Lives of Poets, but still glittering with his original and accurate voice, his knack for capturing the social zeitgeist, and his tender compassion masked so well as dark irony. Written and performed so damned well, that I thought parts were absolutely serious (it's Hollyweird...who knows?) and it took me a few minutes to remember, "this is Jess Walter...this is sarcasm, this is funny!" (outbursts of laughter followed). He describes the lecherous and oily machinations of the 60's Hollywood scene, and a particularly vile film producer that has had so many spa treatments, facial surgeries, botox injections, "cyst and growth removals," that at 72 yrs. old he looks "like a 9-yr. old Filipino girl;" this waxen-faced producer has his assistant hold "Wild Pitch Fridays", one where a hopeful screenwriter even pitches a movie about "Donner!" (complete with exclamation point and chapter entitled "Eating Human Flesh")--it is gut-busting funny. A highlight of the book was the too-brief section where Sir Richard Burton appears--a ridiculously elegant drunk womanizer--performed so well by narrator Edoardo Ballerini that I enthusiastically made everyone I came in contact with while I listened share this part.
But, high-brow chuckles aside, this is not a humorous novel--it is a love story--or at least, several love stories, with *beautiful* and poignant scenes that just resonnate in the listener. Walter creates heart warming (and heartbreaking) moments, as well as the wonderful and sincere Pasquale, one of the most lovelorn characters since Florentino from Gabriel Marquez's Love in the Time of Cholera --and one of the few characters with conscience in this story, that actually even considers the theme of desire vs. duty. (A conscience imbedded in him by a dying Italian mama and the great character of his old crone aunt, a "witch" that calls women whores and puts a curse on a drunken Sir Richard.)
The last small section of the book is one of the most outstanding "wrap-ups" I've read --moving, and again, *beautiful* in every sense.
Large and sweeping, absolutely panoramic; but it is Walter's undeniable talent that aligns it all so effortlessly that it flows into a masterpiece. Ballerini as narrator: Perfezione! From his lilting Italian prose, to his remarkable Welsh drunk dialect...no one could have performed this book better. Some may find the bulk of cast and their individual stories overwhelming, or the skipping between the past and present confusing; the conversations can languish and don't always serve to move the story forward...but there was nowhere else I wanted to go, and I loved every minute of this beautiful book..
With all the 5 star reviews, I felt I couldn't go wrong with this book. Much to my surprise, I did not enjoy it at all. It started out in Italy and seemed very promising. Then it began jumping back and forth in time. Then, the author added numerous unlikeable characters. Then there was the Richard Burton and Liz Taylor thread. All the while, the narrator sounded like he had taken lessons from Scott Brick. He just got carried away with himself. While he was fine with the Italian accents, I really disliked his performance with the rest of the characters and his style of speaking. I would not seek out this narrator and perhaps might even avoid him in the future.
As for the story itself, it seemed a bit farfetched to believe a woman could confuse pregnancy with stomach cancer. We heard over and over again about how beautiful she was but little else was developed about her personality, other than she raised a very disturbed son and seemed to be a basket case herself. The Hollywood characters bored me to tears. Then, there wasn't enough payoff in the end. I kept hoping the ending would redeem it for me.
All the while, I kept wondering what was wrong with me. How could I dislike a book with such consistent rave reviews? I started going back to the reviews, reading them in hopes I would find the missing element that would enhance this experience for me. It didn't work. I guess you can't please all of the people all of the time.
Not a writer, a writer wannabe, editor, lit maj, or pretend literary critic. Just an avid reader/listener. My ratings are opinion only.
to think this was a little too dramatic (wink). Don't get me wrong I enjoyed it, but following the reviews I was expecting life changing literature.
I apologize to anyone offended by this review but it felt a little too much like Hollywood book to movie for me. A good movie probably, but not what I was expecting.
Drudging through the first half of this book was like reading elementary college creative writing papers. I wish I could remember all the things I wanted to "note" that really drove me nuts. For one thing, there was overstatement. The author would make a nice, subtle, point. THEN HE WOULD EXPLAIN IT, as if we were such immature readers that we couldn't get the inference. The book jumps between 1963 italy to "present day" hollywood and includes a "movie pitch" in more detail than we need (again ignoring any sophistication on the reader's part) about the Donner party (mid 1800's). All this is loosely tied together via weakly portrayed characters. Everything we are supposed to feel is dictated to us .. the writing is so inferior that even if we can "feel" anything, before we have a chance to ingest it, the author explains it to us. I think when I finally gave up is when we are told that a physician has told an actress that she has "the same symptoms as stomach cancer" in order to keep her from knowing that she is pregnant by her boyfriend/producer.
The reader is another issue: he is drawing out every word sooo slowly that when I ran it at 2x I could hardly tell it was speeded up. He sounds like he's listened to too many Scott Brick narrations and he's trying to achieve the same sardonic tone.
Overall I am disappointed because the book had some very good reviews
This is one of the best books I've listened to in years. The amazing part is it didn't need thrilling suspense, a great science fiction idea (one of my weaknesses) or intense action to keep me interested. In other words my usual over sugary drink - which we all know can lead to poor health, was reduced down to a clear sparkling refreshing plain old glass of water.
This is a great story that unfolds over many eras and from different perspectives with a little dash of celebrity to add some spice.
The insights this author has into how we sometimes miscommunicate or misinterpret our reality was a joy to hear because we don't always admit to or realize those inaccuracies are a part of our life. Why is that delightful? Because it explains so much in how things don't always turn out the way we are trying to steer them and are not always the way we imagine them. (I'm thinking of how a main character was way off in her inspired interpretation of a painting left by a German Soldier.)
I was uplifted by this story and for all of those readers like me who are wary of books that don't punch with the usual thrills of zombies, vampires, aliens, murder ... (this list of some of my weaknesses can go on quite long) ... please take a chance on this book. You won't be disappointed.
I was told about this book by a friend who had read the printed version. After listening to the excellent narration of a wonderful story, I wanted to tell my friend she had somehow been cheated and desperately needed to listen to it! Truly a fantastic book and narration. And, it didn't hurt that my mother's family is originally from the region of Italy depicted in the story... a beautiful part of a beautiful country.
I actually didn't finish this book. I feel a bit lost... I am totally baffled as to how it's getting such rave reviews. I had such high hopes for this book. It looked beautiful. Sounded beautiful. Had such literary potential. But then I began listening. And listening. And listening. And I waited for that moment that everyone else seemed to have, where the descriptions made them want to drop everything and fly to Italy. Or where the amazing writing of old Hollywood captivated them. It just never happened. I was not only bored with the story, but never have I read a story that so abruptly jarred me back and forth between scenes. It just didn't flow nicely. Plus, there were some really odd changes with the tenses, shifting from past to present. About 3/4 of the way through (blasphemous, I know), I just gave up. In all honesty, there are so many other books I'd rather be reading. Not sure why I wasn't one of the enlightened ones, but I just wasn't.