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Beautiful Ruins | [Jess Walter]

Beautiful Ruins

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.
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Audible Editor Reviews

Why we think it's Essential - Jess Walter’s beautiful and shimmering novel was our editors’ pick for Best Book of 2012, so it was an obvious contender as a new Essential. But Essentials can’t simply be flash-in the pan momentary book crushes, the books on this list have to have legs, and we think that Beautiful Ruins certainly qualifies. Sweeping in scope and breadth, the message within this book runs deep and across generations. And Edoardo Ballerini’s magnificent and elegant narration bestows a level of believability and immediacy to the epic themes at play here. —Emily

Publisher's Summary

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

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.9 (6106 )
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4.3 (5293 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Tracie 11-20-12
    Tracie 11-20-12 Member Since 2010
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    1
    1
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Not all it was cracked up to be..."
    This book wasn’t for you, but who do you think might enjoy it more?

    Unknown


    Would you ever listen to anything by Jess Walter again?

    Probably not


    Any additional comments?

    The review of this book made it sound captivating but I found myself rushing to the end because I wanted to be freed up to start a new book. I guess I was just too cheap to abandon it all together.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    NightOwl 11-19-12
    NightOwl 11-19-12
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    5
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    "Good read"

    A fiction loosely based on some real characters and events, this was an interesting book. I like a book that inspires me to learn by looking up the actual characters, places and event. The author did a lot of research.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Gary Dufault 11-17-12
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    4
    3
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "A great woven tapestry of many lives and dreams"
    What made the experience of listening to Beautiful Ruins the most enjoyable?

    I wasn't sure what to expect. I pretty much went off Audible's recommendation and was very pleased with the work.


    Have you listened to any of Edoardo Ballerini’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    Sometimes his voices seemed to bleed over into different characters but it was very subtle.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    I don't think there was a time when listening that I wanted to turn it off. On the other hand nearly all of my listening is done in 20 to 30 minutes pieces as I travel between work and home. That time has always passed quickly, however.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    11-15-12
    11-15-12 Member Since 2005
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    2
    1
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Worth Listening Because it is so UNIQUE"
    Would you consider the audio edition of Beautiful Ruins to be better than the print version?

    While I have not read the print version, I enjoyed the audio and enjoyed the reader.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    My favorite character was the Innkeeper. Learing about a different era in a different country was extremely insteresting and fascinating. I imagined myself in his little town in Italy, in his little hotel on the seaside. I felt like I was sitting on the veranda myself.


    What about Edoardo Ballerini’s performance did you like?

    I would love to ask him if it at all base on a true story. I loved how he developed the characters and went back and forth from the 1970's to present day. So many of his details seem like it has to be based on actual facts. If not, he is amazing. Either way, he is amazing. Loved the book!


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

    The tennis court that could not be built.


    Any additional comments?

    I especially loved the ailing mother and the dynamics between mother and son - so different in Italy than America.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    jo 11-15-12
    jo 11-15-12
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    3
    3
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "OK characters"
    This book wasn’t for you, but who do you think might enjoy it more?

    Lacked depth of script. Characters were ok, but not exciting. would not listen too again.


    What do you think your next listen will be?

    Already listened to Gone Girl


    What do you think the narrator could have done better?

    Narrator was ok. Did characters fine. Just not plot to work with.


    If you could play editor, what scene or scenes would you have cut from Beautiful Ruins?

    I would have enlightened reader about main characters reason for being in movie and
    what she did after she found out about Drs. diagnosis. No real depth.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Pamela 11-14-12
    Pamela 11-14-12
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    55
    8
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    Story
    "Disappointing Overall"

    I found that the parts of the story that take place in Italy are very interesting, and these are the parts where the narrator EXCELS. However,all of the rest of the multiple directions the story takes are barely tolerable, and then after all of that, the ending is not very satisfying. Guess I had my hopes up too high from all of the GREAT reviews I read.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Rebecca Norcross, GA, United States 11-14-12
    Rebecca Norcross, GA, United States 11-14-12 Member Since 2012
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    1
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    "Lost interest - never finished it"

    Although the book started out OK, about half way through listening became a chore. There weren't any characters I cared about.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sewpippy United States 11-13-12
    Sewpippy United States 11-13-12 Member Since 2009

    I love to read both fiction and non-fiction, I love series books that build by adding more characters and am always sorry when they end.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "A wonderful read!"
    What made the experience of listening to Beautiful Ruins the most enjoyable?

    The depth of feeling that the author explored the individuals, it was a wonderful story, and wonderfully narrated!


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    Piscquali!


    Which scene was your favorite?

    The one in the dug out where they admired the sketching on the wall under the different sunlight conditions!


    If you could rename Beautiful Ruins, what would you call it?

    A time in Italy


    Any additional comments?

    My first Jess Walter book - but will look for others! I picked it based on recommendations on Audible and was NOT disappointed at ALL!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Heather Fort Collins, CO, USA 11-13-12
    Heather Fort Collins, CO, USA 11-13-12 Member Since 2007
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    66
    4
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Beautiful Listen"
    What did you love best about Beautiful Ruins?

    I enjoyed the characters and the connection between characters. The way the story was presented and woven together was intriguing. I loved the dichotomy of old and new throughout.


    What other book might you compare Beautiful Ruins to and why?

    In terms of structure, Beautiful Ruins reminded me of The Help and The Kitchen House. The overlapping of stories told from different perspectives. However, the story was distinctly unique.


    Which scene was your favorite?

    I can't pick one scene that was my favorite but I loved the imagery that made up Italy.


    Any additional comments?

    The only downfall of Beautiful Ruins was the rushed ending. While I liked that everything was buttoned up, I didn't like that it felt like a list of what happens.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Andrea Pennsylvania 11-13-12
    Andrea Pennsylvania 11-13-12 Member Since 2011
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    95
    49
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    8
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    "Crazy but GOOD"

    Made me laugh; could really see this being based on a true story. Lots of interesting characters.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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