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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 (5740 )
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4.3 (4967 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Anna Dublin, OH, United States 08-06-12
    Anna Dublin, OH, United States 08-06-12
    HELPFUL VOTES
    1
    ratings
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    "Not sure what the Fuss is about"
    What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

    The book can be classified as an 'easy read' because it does not have a complex plot or a good plot for that matter. It is a bit boring to even listen to.


    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sheri Canada 07-14-12
    Sheri Canada 07-14-12 Member Since 2008
    HELPFUL VOTES
    45
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    118
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    "Loved the past/present storyline"
    If you could sum up Beautiful Ruins in three words, what would they be?

    Intriguing, romantic, historical


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    Dee, the failed actress who missed hollywood fame by a slip of fate and goes on with stoicism


    Any additional comments?

    Loved this listen

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Bonny Flemington, NJ, United States 10-11-12
    Bonny Flemington, NJ, United States 10-11-12 Member Since 2009

    Mother, knitter, reader, lifelong learner, technical writer, former library assistant & hematologist.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Brilliant book paired with the perfect narrator!"

    I am in awe of Jess Walter and his writing talent. In Beautiful Ruins he takes numerous disparate characters and stories and manages to tie them together perfectly in a book that I was sorry to see end. I resisted reading this book for a long time, sure that it couldn't live up to the hype. I finally gave in, sure that I wouldn't like it, but I was amazed at Walter's ability to make me care about nine characters over five decades and two continents in situations both ludicrous and serious. This book includes a dying Hollywood starlet, an Italian who runs the Hotel Adequate View, a book (chapter) within the book, an over-the-top Hollywood producer along with excerpts from his self-help book, his cynical assistant who has seen too much of the worst of Hollywood, Richard Burton, and the infamous pitch for the movie Donner!, all written perfectly, with incredible observance, detail, and depth, and with enough humor to make you laugh out loud.

    Edoardo Ballerini is the perfect narrator for this book. He brings the many characters to life and his wonderful voice and Italian pronunciation make this excellent book even better.

    Beautiful Ruins is entertaining, but not lightweight or frivolous. I think it's mainly about fame/infamy, finding meaning in a world of junk culture, love, and loss. I feel lucky that I've never read anything by this author and can look forward to reading much more from the brilliant mind of Jess Walter.

    1 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Natalie Chilliwack, BC, Canada 09-29-12
    Natalie Chilliwack, BC, Canada 09-29-12 Member Since 2008
    HELPFUL VOTES
    10
    ratings
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    "What's all the fuss about?"
    What did you like best about Beautiful Ruins? What did you like least?

    It's an easy listen, but that's all it is. Not sure why it is being compared so favourably with The Help because they are leagues apart in creativity and style.


    What aspect of Edoardo Ballerini’s performance would you have changed?

    I've listened to several books performed by Ballerini. He has a great voice and good inflection - but some of his accents are horrible. I think if an actor can't give an adequate rendition of an accent it would be better if they just didn't bother; then we could have been spared Ballerini's attempts at various British accents - all of which were painfully bad.


    If this book were a movie would you go see it?

    Nope


    Any additional comments?

    It's an easy, enjoyable listen, but if you're looking for something of the quality of The Help look somewhere else.

    1 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Patricia FAIRWAY, KS, United States 08-30-12
    Patricia FAIRWAY, KS, United States 08-30-12 Member Since 2007
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "low-brow entertainment"
    Any additional comments?

    I could not finish this book. While listening I kept asking myself how this book could have received so many rave reviews. I wanted to give it a SCATHING review and go on and on about how poorly written it was. Then, it finally hit me. At the risk of seeming elitist, I realized that it's all a matter of taste. People have different tastes in music, movies, food and literature. So if your taste in books runs to the "junk food" variety, you'll probably love this one.

    1 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jenny United States 08-07-12
    Jenny United States 08-07-12
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "didn't like"
    What would have made Beautiful Ruins better?

    The start was good but went downhill fast. Didn't finish it.


    What do you think your next listen will be?

    Grisham


    Who would you have cast as narrator instead of Edoardo Ballerini?

    He was fine


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

    Would have stuck to the start. Modern characters stunk.


    1 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Butch SHERWOOD, AR, United States 07-15-12
    Butch SHERWOOD, AR, United States 07-15-12 Member Since 2012
    HELPFUL VOTES
    7
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    "Excellent narrator!"
    Would you consider the audio edition of Beautiful Ruins to be better than the print version?

    Yes. Edoardo does an excellent job handling the different characters.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    Pasquale Tursi. His was the one character who had honor.


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

    Pasquale.


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

    Pasquale.


    Any additional comments?

    I downloaded this book after reading a review about it in the NY Times. It would not have been one I would have normally read or listened to. The narrator really did a great job making the story come alive. His fluency in Italian was a big plus.

    1 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Arien Plainfield,, IN, United States 10-02-13
    Arien Plainfield,, IN, United States 10-02-13 Member Since 2013

    Wife, mother, working girl, and book addict! Love a good fiction, series, romance, sci-fi, or mystery thriller!

    ratings
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    "Not What I Expected."

    This book was a bit of a let down. The characters were varied and interesting and I loved getting to see them develop through the twenty year span of the book. I loved the intertwining of the stories but was left unfulfilled at the conclusion.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ludia roma, Italy 04-15-13
    Ludia roma, Italy 04-15-13 Member Since 2012
    ratings
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    2
    2
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Disappointing"
    What disappointed you about Beautiful Ruins?

    Impossible to listen for an Italian speaker, it's read half in italian half in English, the italian fishers speak an improbable english. Awful


    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    lora CORUNNA, ON, Canada 03-03-13
    lora CORUNNA, ON, Canada 03-03-13 Member Since 2012

    Mother of teenaged bear, Wife to chaos, Warrior

    HELPFUL VOTES
    18
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    "ruined day"
    Where does Beautiful Ruins rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    I would give this a two, it wasn't a terrible book. it just wasn't for me. I followed the hype, and I should of listened to my head.


    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
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