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
Although the book started out OK, about half way through listening became a chore. There weren't any characters I cared about.
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.
The depth of feeling that the author explored the individuals, it was a wonderful story, and wonderfully narrated!
The one in the dug out where they admired the sketching on the wall under the different sunlight conditions!
A time in Italy
My first Jess Walter book - but will look for others! I picked it based on recommendations on Audible and was NOT disappointed at ALL!
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.
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.
I can't pick one scene that was my favorite but I loved the imagery that made up Italy.
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.
This story line was good but it seemed, to me, to have too many characters. At times I got a bit confused. Also, a bit too much information about sub (and sub - sub) characters especially the last chapter.
But the narrator did a great job with all these voices. I really liked his voice.
One thing I was curious about and did not get in the audio was this: How can you use the name of someone like Richard Burton, was this a true story? If yes or no it would have been nice to at least mention it.
Still, all in all, this was an enjoyable listen.
In the top 3
The settings, vivid characters, and plot. Wonderful story.
His command of the Italian language. Fluid reading.
Great book. Fantastic characters that intertwined. This book is well written and the character development keeps the reader engaged and wanting more.
This is my favourite book, so far. There are so many characters and I love 'character' books and movies.
I can't think of another book which compares to this, as it is such a unique approach to a "character" book. The story is just so atypical.
I liked Shane's pitch, as it was a story within the story and I loved their all meeting at Debra's, 50 years later.
Pasquale is such an honourable man; a loving, true-to-himself soul.
My friend is a voracious reader and likely reads 10 books to my one, so she is well-versed in good literature. This is the only book I have ever dared to recommend, nay, insist that she read.
Yes, the underlying themes are mature, about accepting responsibility for your actions, making the right but not always easy choices, and living the life you have. There is a long list of characters who are all struggling with these issues in different ways. Add the rich language, the sympathetic treatment of the characters, and the generally upbeat end, and you have a book that is worth re-reading. The narrator was excellent too!
I liked Dee, who did her best with some pretty hard knocks in her life. Of course, I liked Pasquale too, a decent man, caught up in events that took him over. He struggled to find his way, but once that became clear, did the right thing, though it was very very hard.
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