Audie Award Nominee, Fiction and Best Solo Narration, 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 50 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.
©2012 Jess Walter (P)2012 HarperCollins Publisher
At first I was completely turned way off by the - what I would consider to be - trite Italian, lusting after a Hollywood starlet. And what moniker does the author dream up? "Dee"? then "Dee Moray"? What a pedestrian run-of-the-name-generator! I would have thought Jess Walter could have done something a little more baroque than "Deborah Moore" to "Dee Moray". And then...her son is named "Pat". Pat is what you do to a dog.
So, from there, I went on to dislike the un-original and overdone paper doll characters, and especially the sincere spirit with which this book seems to have been written. Where is the guy who wrote the dark and ironic "The FInancial Lives of the Poets"? Perhaps this book is an earlier work and from a less cynical period in the author's life and mind.
But, I eventually came to appreciate the message, or one of them, anyway. I am attracted by the various personae we all inhabit as time passes, and we may think someone is 25 inside when she is actually a 60-something cancer sufferer, and the inner 25-yr-old is of no interest. The casing falls apart and I lament the death of the inner spirit that attracts others just when the outer shell, the body, becomes a barrier and a hindrance. I know, this isn't one of the primary themes but it touched me anyway. It's sad that when we are in the prime of our youth, people are interested in knowing our "inner selves" but only because the outer self beckons. Once we have no outer signs advertising our abilities to connect physically and emotionally, the social environment falls away.
The book is masterfully crafted, no doubts about that. But I'm only giving it a "4" because the female point of view is explored so infrequently. Despite its wide scope, this book is about the "big playahs" doing the "big" things.
The play at the end is a brilliant touch, and actually manages to tie together many of the emotional tangents. I actually found myself crying at the play's end, and on a lighter note - I want a designer do-over like the after-party apartment in Sand Point, Idaho.
This read is well worth a credit, but it's not nearly as interesting as "The Brave" by Nicholas Evans, which deals with a similar emotional and physical geography, the Hollywood scene, and the connections that may or may not happen along the way.
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.
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.
I am still reeling from the sheer magnitude of this novel. Beautiful Ruins SHOULD NOT WORK, but it most definitely does! Jess Walter hurtles you through different time periods and storylines whilst introducing you to a multitude of diverse characters. It is a bit like an epileptic fit, which would normally be a recipe for reader confusion, but somehow this gifted author manages to keep it all together in the most remarkable way.
The story revolves around two characters, Pasquale Trusi and Dee Moray (aka Debra Moore). Pasquale, the instantly likeable proprietor of "Hotel Adequate View", is mesmerized by the seemingly fragile Dee Moray, when she arrives at his hotel. She believes that she is suffering from stomach cancer which has forced her to abandon her supporting role in the film Cleopatra. These two characters together form the golden thread which brings together the other plots and characters in the novel. Every character, no matter how brief their appearance in the novel, is either directly or indirectly linked to Pasquale and Dee. The story spans fifty years and the journey that Walter takes us on can only be described as a rollercoaster ride of immense proportions!
Beautiful Ruins is an intricate weaving of disparate tales into one incredible story about life. The writing is witty and hard hitting, the descriptions are wonderful and the characters are captivating. To put it simply - I loved it!
I listened to the audiobook version of this novel, which was superbly narrated by Edoardo Ballerini. He made the novel come alive and my trips to and from work have been an absolute pleasure for the last couple of weeks. In fact, I feel somewhat bereft that I will not be engaging with the novel's characters tomorrow morning and welcome any suggestions on what I should be listening to next!
The audio version was a better choice for me, given the dialogue and accent. Ballerini is so talented a narrator my kids thought throughout the book it was a cast of people telling the story. For this book, the audiobook is a better choice than the physical book.
Any of the parts set in 1962 were so lovely. I don't typically enjoy books that skip back and forth between times, but it was flawlessly done here.
Yes and no. I couldn't wait to listen to more, but I also enjoyed stretching it out and enjoying it over a longer period. One thing is for sure, when it was over I was so sad.
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.
As an Audible Editor I listen for a living! British classics, YA novels, speculative fiction, and anything quirky, fascinating, or heart-wrenching.
The problem I often find with panoramic works of fiction is that too many characters and too many time periods can dilute the power of a novel. It’s tough to spread ourselves so thin in real life and it’s the same with a book: how can you care about so many characters at once? But in Beautiful Ruins – a grand work that reaches back 60 years and stretches to encapsulate a remote Italian village and the glamour of Hollywood under the same roof – Jess Walters manages to make every character’s individual perspective legitimate. From the German World War II soldier whose name we never learn, to the 19 year-old drug dealer/club promoter/romantic, and even to Richard Burton himself, Walters gives each character a voice – but not a pigeonhole. And Edoardo Ballerini’s performance – in its myriad voices, each perfect in its own way - bestows a level of believability and immediacy. His narration serves as a great equalizer: everyone here deserves the same respect and reverence.
Around the office we’ve been referring to Beautiful Ruins as the next The Help. That always gets a few disbelieving raised eyebrows. But while Walter’s novel may not contain the same clear moral imperative, its message, while subtler, is just as important. If you’ve ever – in one of your more metaphysical moments – felt overwhelmed by the swirling stories, the multiple points of experience, the many lives all existing at once, this book untangles the mess for you - and the result is pretty beautiful.
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I was pretty bored throughout most of this book - what attracted me to this story in the first place? The synopsis isn’t particularly enticing… It must have been on sale.
I am someone who enjoys audible books very much now that they exist. As a young student (real young) I can remember a teacher telling me how books can transport people to different places & open up a whole new world. This is how listening to audible books make me feel. Now if I can just stop falling asleep while listening to them at night I would be fine. Ha ha
A book i could read Again & Again. So intense, light, happy, sad - you name it this book had it. Totally loved it. A hard book to write i am sure, but one a reader can totally immerse themselves in. Great narration. A must read. Thank you.
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.
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