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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 (7241 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Ann Seattle, WA, United States 10-12-12
    Ann Seattle, WA, United States 10-12-12
    ratings
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    "Transporting Listen"
    If you could sum up Beautiful Ruins in three words, what would they be?

    Endearing, witty, touching


    What did you like best about this story?

    The way the author created the different plot lines and brought them together in the end was wonderful. The author has a great sense of humor, too. One of the characters is a young screenwriter whose dream is to write a script for an epic film about the Donner party, which he decides to title "Donner!"


    What about Edoardo Ballerini’s performance did you like?

    The narration was among the best I've heard. Distinct voices for each character, but not overacted. He brought the endearing, sometimes maddening, characters to life and enhanced the emotional impact of the story.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Bonny 10-11-12
    Bonny 10-11-12 Member Since 2015

    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.

    2 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sandra LI New York 10-11-12
    Sandra LI New York 10-11-12 Member Since 2013

    Bookworm

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    "HOLD ONTO LOVE"

    This is a beautifully written book that tells the story of how brief encounters can affect peoples' lives for the better and sometimes; for the worse. The narrator is so skillful, that he sometimes gives the imperssion that I was listening to poetry. I enjoyed this book and only questioned one thing. I found it hard to believe that a sexually active adult female, would not suspect that she was pregnant. And, yet, she took the word of a doctor who only gave her a routine examination and diagnosed she had cancer. (Kind of a stretch.) I also had the impression that the ending was rushed and the author could have avoided trying to tie all the knots together to ensure closure. Not so in the real world.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    danette 10-10-12
    danette 10-10-12
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    "great listen!"
    What made the experience of listening to Beautiful Ruins the most enjoyable?

    You learn the stories of each character and then they are so interwoven, so as to tie it all together.


    What did you like best about this story?

    I loved how the characters grew and changed as they became self aware.


    What does Edoardo Ballerini bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    His voices!


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    paula mc donald, PA, United States 10-10-12
    paula mc donald, PA, United States 10-10-12 Member Since 2011
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    "10/10/12"
    Would you consider the audio edition of Beautiful Ruins to be better than the print version?

    i did order the audio version and im so glad i did.. chapters were lengthly due to intertwining of characters and their stories. writer ties the tale up in a beautiful bow. eduardo di a great servce to the writers story,broken itlian was right on the money....have already recommended itto my brother and girlfriend.thanks for the tip in beutiful ruins i was very happy to read this book and iI loved the ending


    What did you like best about this story?

    everything especially the flow of storyline and the way every tale comes together int he end


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

    no


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

    no extream reaction just the flow of different emotions as the book progressed


    Any additional comments?

    if you read this book and didnt like it try the AUDIO version, if you read the book and did like it try the AUDIO version and fall in love with Beautiful Ruins again.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Chocolate Chip Stamper Coastal Georgia 10-10-12
    Chocolate Chip Stamper Coastal Georgia 10-10-12 Member Since 2009
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Book Club Read - My Favorite Book this Year!"
    Would you consider the audio edition of Beautiful Ruins to be better than the print version?

    Although I haven't read the print version, I loved the way the narrator read the accents. His rich nuances of each dialect helped bring the characters alive.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    Pasqualle - humble, caring, honest, determined... I just loved him.


    What about Edoardo Ballerini’s performance did you like?

    He was fabulous with the various accents. His voice made you live the story.


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

    It was not a laugh out loud book. Yes, there were segments that made me smile in my mind's eye... clever lines, dialogue, or good plot. It had emotional elements, but did not make me weep. More importantly, I did feel that I couldn't wait to "read" more... and found myself inventing chores and things to do in order to continue listening.


    Any additional comments?

    It was my turn to pick a book for my book club. I had raced through 6 or 7 different books trying to find one that I wanted to recommend. I wanted my book club friends to fall in love with my selection, so I knew my choice could not just be a mediocre read. I was intrigued when I read a review that claimed Beautiful Ruins could be the next "The Help" (as far as popularity). That convinced me to try it. I was not disappointed. The characters are richly developed and I loved how the story spans 50-60 years with various characters' lives brushing into and intertwining with other characters' lives... It was also fascinating to me how the author actually made Richard Burton an integral character in the book with dialogue (as opposed to merely referencing him as a character). The ending was wonderfully crafted and satiated my curiosity about the fate and goings on of each character. Bravo... this will be the crown in our collective book discussions.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Pamela COLUMBIA, NJ, United States 10-09-12
    Pamela COLUMBIA, NJ, United States 10-09-12
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Depressing characters"

    I'm not sure why this book had the great reviews -Marketing promotion I guess. I listened to the entire book- but found every character to be depressing. And the fact that I agreed with some of the characters thoughts - had me depressed with myself. The narrator was excellent, great variation between characters, clear and easy to understand.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Misty Deer Park, TX, United States 10-09-12
    Misty Deer Park, TX, United States 10-09-12
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    "Couldn't wait to sit in traffic"
    Would you consider the audio edition of Beautiful Ruins to be better than the print version?

    The performance was great! Hearing the Italian characters and their accents perfectly portrayed really helps you hear the anguish, excitement and passion in their story!


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

    The WHOLE thing! The setting, the descriptions, the fights-- the jokes!


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

    I haven't listened to him before but I will LOOK for him now!


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    When Pasqualli returned to Amadea!


    Any additional comments?

    Loved it

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Maria 10-08-12
    Maria 10-08-12 Member Since 2015
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "I wish this book had never ended."
    Where does Beautiful Ruins rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    Among the first five.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    Pascale. Such a gentle, honest soul


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

    Pascale. Loved the accent.


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

    Pascale. So many things to learn from his life story.


    Any additional comments?

    Masterful writing, gorgeous performance. It was really a true pleasure to listen to it.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Linda 10-08-12
    Linda 10-08-12 Member Since 2013
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    "Enjoyable story."
    Would you listen to Beautiful Ruins again? Why?

    The story line and characters were engaging. I thought it was a poignant and thought provoking book that stayed enjoyable throughout.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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