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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 (7244 )
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3.9 (6281 )
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4.3 (6294 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Gregory waynesville, OH, United States 01-02-13
    Gregory waynesville, OH, United States 01-02-13 Member Since 2003
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Characters"

    I enjoyed listening to this book and would recommend it to just about anyone. Already have as a matter of fact. The story is a little convoluted but I love the characters. The female lead is an example to all of us in her selflessness and positive outlook.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sharon GIG HARBOR, WA, United States 01-02-13
    Sharon GIG HARBOR, WA, United States 01-02-13 Member Since 2012
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    13
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    "My Favorite Audible Book!"

    What a great find! I had no previous knowledge of the author or this book and bought it solely based on the description. The storyline interweaves "real" characters with fictional and really brought them to life. Edoardo Ballerini's narration was perfection- If I were an author I would insist on having him read all my books! This is THE book I will recommend to anyone who wants to try Audible.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    BJ Emerald Isle, NC, United States 01-02-13
    BJ Emerald Isle, NC, United States 01-02-13 Member Since 2009
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    "Undecided"

    I'm not sure if I liked it or not. I know better than to go for 'highbrow' books and I hate stories about Hollywood people, yet parts of this stayed with me. The scenes are vivid and the characters almost too real. However, it is not a book about Italy or antiquities.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    renee 01-02-13
    renee 01-02-13
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    "My favorite of the Year for 2012!"
    Would you listen to Beautiful Ruins again? Why?

    Ballerini has such a smooth voice you can't help but laugh out loud when his dry humor hits you. Jess Walter is a wonderful story teller, his attention to detail is a little mind boggling, and although sometimes difficult to keep up with the names of so many characters, it adds to the enticement. Each Character is given a chapter and rotated so you can't help but miss them as you go away from the initial scene to yet another person's life. It is like having a invisibility cloak and wings, you are the spy on the wall and you thirst for more. I listened to it twice it was THAT good.

    A lovely American actress has been played and manipulated in the game of life in Hollywood. Bring tissues and your funny bone. I laughed out loud while listening to it in the Deer hunting blind.


    What did you like best about this story?

    The ending.


    Which character – as performed by Edoardo Ballerini – was your favorite?

    Pasqualle,


    If you could take any character from Beautiful Ruins out to dinner, who would it be and why?

    Forget the Characters. I want to buy Ballerini a drink and listen to his voice all night long.


    Any additional comments?

    Stick to it, bring tissues, you will cry.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Elizabeth Meridian, MS, United States 01-02-13
    Elizabeth Meridian, MS, United States 01-02-13
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Enjoyable!"
    What made the experience of listening to Beautiful Ruins the most enjoyable?

    Beautiful Ruins always had my attention. I was never bored.


    What did you like best about this story?

    I loved how each chapter took me to a different place and time or even a different book or play. You never knew where you would be next and that kept it exciting.


    What about Edoardo Ballerini’s performance did you like?

    Absolutely loved the reader. Great job.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Barbara H. Lockard NY, United States 01-02-13
    Barbara H. Lockard NY, United States 01-02-13 Member Since 2010

    keuka

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "A Winner"

    Now I understand why Beautiful Ruins was rated so favorably and was so popular. I held off listening to this one since it sounded a melodramatic and improbable, but was swept along once I started to listen. The main characters are very endearing and other minor characters, including celebrities, are colorfully drawn. Some of its impact may be lost on readers not old enough to remember the perpetual presence of Liz and Dick on the front page of supermarket tabloids through most of the '60s. I would recommend Beautiul Ruins for no other reason that it is the rare book that pulls you up and down an emotional gamut - not the least of which are parts that are laugh-out-loud hilarious.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Gail jackson, NJ, United States 01-02-13
    Gail jackson, NJ, United States 01-02-13 Member Since 2011
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    "I really wanted to LOVE this book ..."

    I'm just not a fan of forward and backward story telling. As soon as I developed interest in a story line, I was swept away to another time, place and character.. In this case, the attempt to "weave" the past and present stories of the various characters was overdone (in my opinion), I simply lost interest in the whole, and adjusted the narrator speed to 2.5x to get me through. I'm also not a fan of over-blown descriptives, vs actual plot. This had a lot of that as well. On the bright side, narration was expertly performed!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Judith 01-02-13
    Judith 01-02-13
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    "Great bedtime reading - if you want to sleep..."
    Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?

    The plot was well constructed with lots of unexpected twists. But I'd have preferred to hear more about Italy and a lot less about Hollywood.


    What was the most interesting aspect of this story? The least interesting?

    Most interesting - plot development. Least interesting - everything pertaining to Hollywood.


    Did Edoardo Ballerini do a good job differentiating all the characters? How?

    All characters were read in the same dull cadence - which contributed to my lack of interest in the story.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Bridget RICHMOND, VA, United States 01-01-13
    Bridget RICHMOND, VA, United States 01-01-13
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    "Very confusing."
    What disappointed you about Beautiful Ruins?

    I felt like it jumped between to many characters and eras.


    What do you think your next listen will be?

    Not sure.


    Would you be willing to try another one of Edoardo Ballerini’s performances?

    Sure


    What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

    Confusion, and disappointment.


    Any additional comments?

    I feel like I would have to listen to this book again just to figure out all the details. But I don't want to listen to it again.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Robyn FRANKSTON SOUTH, Australia 12-30-12
    Robyn FRANKSTON SOUTH, Australia 12-30-12 Member Since 2014
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Nice read / listen"
    What made the experience of listening to Beautiful Ruins the most enjoyable?

    Again a book with layers and characters that were a little surprising. The description of the surroundings painted a picture in which the characters moved about creating the story. The humour shone through.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of Beautiful Ruins?

    There were several moments which were not expected. To tell may spoil the story for a reader/listener.


    What about Edoardo Ballerini’s performance did you like?

    The narrator brought the characters to life making them real expressing their personality traits and behaviours which again made me 'see' the players.


    Who was the most memorable character of Beautiful Ruins and why?

    The Italian Innkeeper


    Any additional comments?

    The book was a little surprising for me, I didn't think it would be my type of book but it was and I'm very glad I took the opportunity of the thoroughly enjoyable experience.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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