Easy to listen and captivating, the story switches between post-war Italy and nowadays Hollywood and follows the intertwined lives of an Italian hotel keeper, an American actress and the man who made a living manipulating with people's lives.
I read it amidst a harsh cold winter but can just imagine laying out in the sun on some beautiful beach, listening to this wonderful tale and hearing the ocean waves splash in the background.
Yes. It was not fantastic but still pretty entertaining.
Yes, but would not be on the top of my list
Histrionic, stereotypical, uninspired
I did not dislike this book but I did not love it either. The book started of pretty well but what could have being a great story turn in to some pretty plane and sometimes borings sections.
There is no Frigate like a Book To take us Lands away Nor any Coursers like a Page Of prancing Poetry – Emily Dickinson
Yup, I loved it. There are so many interesting facets of this book. First and foremost, there's a good story. I think the book would stand alone on that fact. However, there's more. It is really funny, too. The social satire is biting... taking the biggest bite out of the movie industry. Michael Deane's character is villainous, and the continued descriptions of him are hysterical. Here's just one example:
“It may be impossible to trace the sequence of facials, spa treatments, mud baths, cosmetic procedures, lifts and staples, collagen implants, outpatient touch-ups, tannings, Botox injections, cyst and growth removals and stem-cell injections that have caused a 72-year-old man to have the face of a 9-year-old Filipino girl.”
Richard Burton is also portrayed as a villain, and in a tragically funny way. It is interesting that all the Hollywood characters are ALWAYS mentioned by the author with their full names. So it's always, "Richard Burton did this, " and ," Michael Deane did such and such." The only time they are called by their first name is if a character is speaking to them or about them. I loved this device as yet another way to show their soul-lessness. They only seem to exist as their Hollywood character and not as a human being with a heart. The only Hollywood character who escapes this naming device is Dee Moray, and this is because she is NOT just a Hollywood-type character and is actually one of the "good guys" in the novel.
The book is also romantic and thought provoking. I love the way Richard Burton's villainy provokes Pasquale to "do the right thing." He thinks back to when his mother talked to him about “how much much easier life would be if our intentions and our desires could always be aligned. “ Later in the story, he acts on this lesson. I felt like this was the highlight or climax of the book, what it was really building up to, at least as far as the Pasquale story goes, and it made me sob, which I love. (spoiler alert here; couldn’t help including this.)
“And when beautiful Amedea lifted Bruno from the stroller, Pasquale thought again of his mother on the beach that day—her fear that, when she was gone, Pasquale wouldn’t be able to bridge the gap between what he wanted and what was right. He wished he could reassure his mother: a man wants many things in life, but when one of them is also the right thing, he would be a fool not to choose it.”
The title: it can refer to so many things, but mainly it refers to the ruins of people's lives and dreams. Almost everyone in the book has dreams of “making it big,” and the dreams never turn out to be what they expected, BUT in large part their lives are beautiful in spite of it.
I love the descriptions of the paintings on the WWII bunker and when Dee at Pasquale realize that the impact of the paintings would not be the same if the wall were displaced into a museum. It is the whole geography of the paintings that makes them so special, and somehow I think they represent the longing to have love and a beautiful life that Pasquale and Dee Moray have throughout the book. And the paintings are also "beautiful ruins." Will the girl in the paintings get reunited? Will Pasquale and Dee ever find their true love or see each other again? The paintings are "ruins" also, but they immortalize the longing and beauty of love. At the end we find out that this story, too, isn’t quite what we thought it was. Another “Beautiful Ruin”?
And then there is that Donner! story. The story itself is pretty lame, as it's supposed to be, but what I liked is how when Michael Deane's group goes to Idaho to find Claire, the author describes them all in terms of the Donner party. That cracked me up. For example, the author starts out the chapter called “Front Man” with a comparison, “At 11:14 A.M., the doomed Deane Party departs LAX on the first leg of its epic journey… “ (location 4938) and he doesn’t let us forget the comparison to the Donner party as Shane considers ways to get more money for his Donner! story.
“In the Emerald City the tragic Deane Party changes planes, Shane ever so casually mentioning that the ground they’ve covered so far in just over two hours would’ve taken William Eddy months to travel.
‘And we haven’t even had to eat anyone’, Michael Deane says…. “ (location4959)
The various writing techniques the author uses are interesting. The Donner! story as a chapter is one example, and then using Michael Deane's first chapter of his autobiography as a chapter in the real book is another. This first chapter is also hysterical and adds to the reader's already poor opinion of MD. It also adds another perspective to the story of Michael and Dee Moray.
Variety of perspective is definitely on display throughout the book. The stories of the various characters constantly illuminate different elements of the plot, and sometimes one character's story reaches back in time and finally unveils what we've been wondering about another character. I like that convoluted way of moving the plot forward. It is interesting.
Michael Deane says his great epiphany was "People want what they want." This revelation shaped his career. His talent is to divine what people want and get it for them. This comes into play in several areas of the book. The "Lydia play" at the end of the book demonstrates how this is true for several people. First of all, Pat Bender and Lydia want what they want: each other over all those years. But then the play makes Claire realize her love for Darrell, and also Shane realizes how he messed up with his first wife. The play causes them to re examine their lives. The Michael Deane theme that "everyone wants what they want and they won't/can't be dissuaded from it” portrays all these couples and their continued love and longing. Even though MD is a despicable character, I did recognize that he had this special ability, and he made quite a career out of it.
Lit Lovers book club questions
Jess Walter interview, Salon
"Richard Burton appears in the book, to great effect. How much research did you do on him? How many of his films had you seen, and did you watch after you decided to include him as a character? I love that the title comes from the piece describing Burton on Dick Cavett (I watched the clips on YouTube…there are worse people to be on a boat off the coast of Italy with).
I always do a lot of research, immerse myself so that I believe it, then set the nonfiction aside and let it become fiction. So, yes, I read books and watched Burton films and interviews and, my favorite, old footage of him on stage (Burton’s “Hamlet”, in black and white, filmed from a distance with an unmoving camera, is stunning … you can’t believe the power coiled in that body and voice, especially when compared to the craggy old sot who appears in that Cavett interview). His relationship to his art (acting) and fame really hovered over the entire novel, over all the characters and their attempts to express themselves through novels and stories and music and plays and acting and painting. He was sort of a talisman for the book but I didn’t know if the chapter with him in it would make sense. I wrote and jettisoned so many chapters along the way (including Dee dying in the 1980s and even a po-mo chapter in which I entered my own book to pitch a film version of “The Zero“ … it was like crawling down a hall, finding a closed door, then backing up and trying another hall. But as soon as I wrote Burton, I felt like I was crawling in the right direction."
COMPELLING, FUN, READABLE
not in my wheel house but something about the review caused me to buy it and I am so very glad I did. Going back to get Jess Walter's other books.
At the end.....when the two main characters are together....do not want to reveal too much!
Oh the title is so perfect......so perfect cannot change it
Yes I am a avid reader, 55 years old a mother and a grandmother....and an elected official.
This is a delightful tale that is beautifully written. I would recommend this book (and have) to anyone looking for an escape into a delightful world of well defined characters that have both poignant and amusing stories.
Unknown. I haven't read the book, just have the audio version.
When Pasquil (unsure of spelling) chose to do what he thought was the "right thing" and did not tell Dee Moore how he felt about her.
The way he changed his voice for each character.
The author effortlessly inter-twines different time periods, taking the listener on a wonderful journey from 1962 through present day. Along the way, we get to intimately learn about each character. The author's wonderful way with words makes it easy and enjoyable for the listener to get a sense of the people, places and situations in the various story lines in the book.
Toronto, Canada. Audible enthusiast since 2001.
This book seems sweetly nostalgic through most of the telling, even when the memories aren't that positive. We are drawn into a sleepy Italian seaside town that becomes not-sleepy for awhile. The characters are well drawn, and well acted by the narrator. The interwoven stories are complete enough not to be confusing, and compelling on their own, but even more compelling when they all converge near the end. The plot didn't race from moment to moment, making me crave the story like a drug. Instead, the story was more like a really good gourmet meal, with new pleasures arriving with each course, and dessert at the end. In style, it reminded me of the Three Junes, a book I also enjoyed very much.
I loved the story line, up to the end. The reader really made it first class with the voices, accents and languages. The way the ends tied together at the closing were a little Dickensonian for me - too tidy for real life, but the rest drew me in.
Fantastic! Wow, can Jess Walter write! He describes this book perfectly when referring to it as a "braid" of stories. I am not always a fan of books with many characters and subplots, but Walters made me care about all of them, especially Dee/ Deborah and Pasquale. The other characters, while not as "likable," we're just as compelling in the confusion of their lives.
And, the narration was such a pleasure to listen to. So many voices, so many accents, all done very well. I look forward to hearing more from this narrator.