This story is set in one of the most beautiful areas I've visited, and, like the setting, describes characters and contexts that are at once well-known and the hidden paths, seemingly discovered by chance. The novel tells many stories about how an intricate matrix of crass and benevolent characters make life-choices by following the paths to "what they want" and "what is right", and the tension when those paths are not always in parallel. Even though the "players" have flaws and can cause pain for each other, each choice shines by expressing eventually some of the better parts of human life.
There are many examples of these choices, a small example is how Jess Walter describes the growth of one of the characters who has devoted himself to building a cantilevered tennis court along the beautiful Ligurian coast. He eventually discovers that unlike the photos he's seen of tennis (he's never played), every point in tennis includes a swing that misses.
The romance, for me, is more poignant because it optimistically allows some of the best parts of human love to be expressed not through a standard "happily-ever-after" resolution, and that life includes the harder, more complex, "what is right" choices.
The narrator Edoardo Ballerini brings a depth to the characters, Italian pronunciation, and even does a Welsh voice that you'd recognize. Well done!
Just looking for something to distract me...
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
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 loved reading for years, but now I've become so attached to Audible I'm finding reading tedious. Is that a bad thing?....
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...
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.
A tour-de-force performance by both the author and the reader. Is this Great Literature? The reader is such a part of the experience that it is hard to tell what “just” the book would have been like. My vote, however, is YES! No reader could have made “just any” story this magnificent, this captivating. The plot is simply flawless. Devastating…and funny. Heartbreaking…and uplifting. Uplifting...yet crushing: “Who could live even a day and not feel the sweet ache of regret?”
I am thankful for Audible’s Listener Reviews. I would not have read it otherwise. The plot summary made it sound too maudlin. The cover illustration made it seem like not-my-kind of novel (although, after having listened to the book, I have to admit that the cover was perfect – it looks like the poster for an old Italian movie…and that’s what the book feels like. Cinema Paradiso, in audible format). I am so glad I went with the reviews!
This was most definitely worth the listen. The viewing?
“Life is a glorious catastrophe.” This novel is a glorious success.
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.
The story is OK - a bit American, moralistic and repetitive with the themes, but it works OK. The narrator is brilliant! - he does all the accents (without overdoing them), and makes you want to hear more (despite the reserves you may have about the storyline).
All up, worth buying.
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.
63 y/o psychologist with two sons, living in SF Bay Area. I absolutely love all the feedback I've been getting for my reviews. It's very gratifying. Thanks to all of you.
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.