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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 (6628 )
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3.9 (5724 )
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4.3 (5734 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Barbara 11-27-12
    Barbara 11-27-12
    HELPFUL VOTES
    1
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    4
    4
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    0
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    Performance
    Story
    "Interesting...but could be better"
    Would you consider the audio edition of Beautiful Ruins to be better than the print version?

    I lead a busy lifestyle and audio books allow me to listen and complete other tasks at the same time.


    What was your reaction to the ending? (No spoilers please!)

    The last 30 minutes were unnecessary details about minor characters and events. They just didn't fit in with the main story. The real ending happens before that...so why the blah, blah, blah at the end?

    These unconnected 'details' were like trying to understand the thought process of an ADD child...Can I have a cookie?...look butterfly!...Why is the sky blue?...There's a squirrel...I hate Social studies....Is it time for dinner?...

    This garbage at the end takes away from the story.


    Which scene was your favorite?

    When Pasquali ends up being herding into the lines for 'extras' in the movie.


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    Some humorous lines interspersed within the story.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jo Thornlie, Australia 11-26-12
    Jo Thornlie, Australia 11-26-12 Member Since 2015
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    15
    4
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Topical tie-in"
    Is there anything you would change about this book?

    Seemed slow to start.


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

    Pasquale brought honesty and purpose to the ruthless Film industry.


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

    Pasquale


    Do you think Beautiful Ruins needs a follow-up book? Why or why not?

    No...it finished with a definitive beauty and needed no follow-up although the option is there.


    Any additional comments?

    With Richard Burton Diaries out for the Christmas season, Beautiful Ruins as fiction could be an adjunct.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Shoe Queen 11-26-12
    Shoe Queen 11-26-12
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    4
    4
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Boring"
    This book wasn’t for you, but who do you think might enjoy it more?

    A great narrator is only as good as the words he has to read and frankly this is not interesting. The story jumps around so much that you have to go back after not listening for a few days to remind yourself what was happening. I am forcing myself to finish it hoping for a change of heart. If I had it to do again, I would NOT waste my credit.


    Would you ever listen to anything by Jess Walter again?

    Most probably not


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

    No


    What character would you cut from Beautiful Ruins?

    Ha Ha Ha.....what character would I not.


    Any additional comments?

    I wanted a good story. I don't mind heartbreak or egotistical one dimensional characters but they have to be a part of a good story. This one is not.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    ellerl 11-26-12
    ellerl 11-26-12 Member Since 2007

    educator and technologist

    HELPFUL VOTES
    2
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    9
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    3
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Enthralling and disappointing"
    What did you love best about Beautiful Ruins?

    I loved all the diverse characters and how each life somehow was entangled with others. The narrator did a great job especially with Pascal. I loved being transported to Italy and all the complexity. At first, I wasn't sure I'd selected well but as the story weaves through time and place I could not push stop.


    Would you be willing to try another book from Jess Walter? Why or why not?

    I might if other titles have such good character building.


    What about Edoardo Ballerini’s performance did you like?

    Excellent


    Any additional comments?

    I was very disappointed in the ending. Did they make it to the bunker? Were the paintings still there? Did Pat stay in Idaho? Much was answered but too many things remain.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Julia San Mateo, CA, United States 11-25-12
    Julia San Mateo, CA, United States 11-25-12 Member Since 2012
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    16
    5
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    "Surprisingly good"

    I was not so sure about this one, but decided to follow the recommendations and go ahead and use up a credit. I'm so glad I did, mostly because Eduardo Ballerini did such a great job as reader. He brought this world to life in such a vivid way and made the characters have such depth. I might have struggled to get into this book if I read it myself, but with Ballerini leading the way I loved the story and was sorry when it ended. Now I'm on a mission to listen to more books he reads.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Susan Edmond, OK, United States 11-23-12
    Susan Edmond, OK, United States 11-23-12 Member Since 2008
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    31
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    5
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    "Too much hype in marketing left me disappointed"

    Yes, this was a beautifully written novel. I did find myself enjoying some of the characters deeply. On the other hand, Richard Burton and the Hollywood hangers-on left me completely flat. Edoardo Ballerini as narrator was the highlight.

    Author Jess Walter has a gift for intertwining disparate characters in different decades and different continents, but unless the next novel is free of household names (behaving badly), I won't be back.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Tracie 11-20-12
    Tracie 11-20-12 Member Since 2011
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    1
    1
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    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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    96
    5
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    0
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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
    5
    3
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    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
  •  
    Nancy Letofsky 11-15-12 Member Since 2005
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    2
    1
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    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
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