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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

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Easily my new favorite book from AUDIBLE.

I purchased this book on the recommendation of its reader, Edoardo Ballerini. His work on Lou Burney's Gutshot Straight made me a huge fan of his and the author. So I purchased it without knowing the first thing about it. What a treasure!

In my review of "14" I listed Mr. Ballerini as one of the top 4 readers on Audible. Scott Brick being a distant 5th, Edoardo competes for the top spot with Will Patton (James Lee Burke novels), Tom Stechschulte (No Country For Old Men) and Ray Porter (Dawn Patrol). The bottom line is that Ballerini's work is up to the task of this masterpiece of modern literature.

As for the book, I can only say I fell in love with all of it. I loved its history, beauty, tragedy, romance, mystery, characters and storytelling. Does this make you want to listen? I hope so, because it is so much more...

32 of 38 people found this review helpful

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Interwoven Stories of Life

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Yes. This book is completely engrossing, interweaving the lives of several completely different kinds of people who intersect over a fifty year time period. It's written like a jigsaw puzzle, all the pieces fit together at the end. At times fun and enjoyable, at other times sad, heartbreaking. The images of Italy, both in 1962 and at present were breathtakingly described.

What did you like best about this story?

The ability of the author to tell an engrossing, detailed story bringing in so many different people. The story travels from Italy to Hollywood and then to Seattle and Idaho; back and forth from 1962 to present (with look-backs in between).

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

I have not heard his narration before but was impressed with his performance with this book.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

I wanted to, it was engrossing but it actually took several sittings to complete.

Any additional comments?

No.

36 of 43 people found this review helpful

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Over Hyped

Friends raved about this one and reviewers gave it 5 stars so I took a chance. Beautiful Ruins was not for me. Good premise adding a backstory to the Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor firestorm making Cleopatra, with new characters. Parts were entertaining, but overall, the different points of view were disjointed, not flowing back together and characters were not developed beyond surface aspects. The ideas were present yet not explored with enough detail, creating real people you cared about. The ending was rushed.

59 of 72 people found this review helpful

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OH!!! WOW!!!

I LOVE this book! The title is perfect. Even some ruins are just as beautiful in what they became as how they started out - completely different but beutiful. I???m still crying because???the book ended? the book/end was so well done? because I could have never imagined it would end this way. YES to all.

This book has so many great elements ??? and the narration of Edoardo Ballerini ??? spot on!! I laughed until I cried (especially the Richard Burton scenes ??? but so many others!), and I cried and didn???t want to stop. I lost a whole weekend because I could not stop listening ??? this is a warning. The only critical thing I can say about it is some parts start at the end and work back, some parts don???t, but in the end it was perfect. Rest assured you end up knowing what you need to know ??? and I would NOT change a thing. DO NOT SKIP THE EPILOG.

I would buy this again if I had to; thank goodness I can listen to it as many times as I want. Thank you Jess Walter and Audible!

Jess Walter - I will read anything you write from now on (I say that now...:).

The best review

33 of 40 people found this review helpful

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I will not stop recommending this book!

Until Beautiful Ruins, I had never read any of Jess Walter’s work, nor listened to any of Edoardo Ballerini’s performances. But when I started listening to their masterful collaboration I got the same feeling I did when listening to Water for Elephants and The Help for the first time. There’s something special here, without a doubt. Ballerini caught my attention right away, as the novel starts out with a description of the Cinque Terre along Italy’s coast and is made even more beautiful by his impeccable Italian. Walter speaks of intersecting lives and flips back and forth between present-day Hollywood and the Italian Riviera of the 1960s, telling a captivating story of love, disillusionment, friendship, and the realities of responsibility that I won’t soon forget (and won’t stop recommending until everyone I know has a similar soft spot in their heart for Pasquale Tursi!).

Next up...everything else that Jess Walter has written and Edoardo Ballerini has narrated!

24 of 29 people found this review helpful

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  • Taryn
  • Suffern, NY, United States
  • 10-20-12

Have recommended to my friends

I am not sure I would have loved this book as much if I had read it, but listening was a wonderful experience! The Narrator was superb and I was transported to Italy, America and back many times. I did not find the switching between past and present difficult to follow as I do in other books. I enjoyed the intertwined stories and the way they were all tied up neatly in the end. Having a daughter who is currently studying film restoration and preservation at UCLA right now also made it quite interesting to me, as that was Claire's background. Great literature - NO, an enjoyable and entertaining listen - YES!!

27 of 33 people found this review helpful

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  • B.J.
  • Minneapolis, MN, United States
  • 07-21-12

A beautiful, complicated book

Let me say from the top that the narration of this book has got to be one of the best ever. The voices of the characters are perfect. It deserves something more than 5 stars. Then again, there was a lot to work with. Love and loss, dreams, reality, responsibility, family ... it's all here. It's impossible not to relate to just a little bit of most of the characters - all of whom are deep and flawed and very real. Terrific book club book. Lots to talk about after.

26 of 32 people found this review helpful

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  • Russell
  • Keswick, ON, Canada
  • 11-07-12

Deep Insight into the Human Condition

This is one of the best books I've listened to in years. The amazing part is it didn't need thrilling suspense, a great science fiction idea (one of my weaknesses) or intense action to keep me interested. In other words my usual over sugary drink - which we all know can lead to poor health, was reduced down to a clear sparkling refreshing plain old glass of water.

This is a great story that unfolds over many eras and from different perspectives with a little dash of celebrity to add some spice.

The insights this author has into how we sometimes miscommunicate or misinterpret our reality was a joy to hear because we don't always admit to or realize those inaccuracies are a part of our life. Why is that delightful? Because it explains so much in how things don't always turn out the way we are trying to steer them and are not always the way we imagine them. (I'm thinking of how a main character was way off in her inspired interpretation of a painting left by a German Soldier.)

I was uplifted by this story and for all of those readers like me who are wary of books that don't punch with the usual thrills of zombies, vampires, aliens, murder ... (this list of some of my weaknesses can go on quite long) ... please take a chance on this book. You won't be disappointed.

10 of 12 people found this review helpful

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Beautiful novel

Any additional comments?

I was told about this book by a friend who had read the printed version. After listening to the excellent narration of a wonderful story, I wanted to tell my friend she had somehow been cheated and desperately needed to listen to it! Truly a fantastic book and narration. And, it didn't hurt that my mother's family is originally from the region of Italy depicted in the story... a beautiful part of a beautiful country.

21 of 26 people found this review helpful

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Scandals and Silver Screens

"Beautiful Ruins" stars some for the biggest personalities of the Silver Screen. It blends fact and fiction to create an entertaining romp through history (and geography). Scandals, Romance, and (...ummm) Intrigue, are splattered across the pages! The idyllic backdrop is memorable: you can almost feel the warm saltwater breezes. If this sounds like your thing, then this is your book.

I'm the kind of guy that doesn't like to read the magazines in the check-out aisle.
You should know that, because this story is 'that' kind of magazine, only in the form of a well-written novel. That is why it was only given three stars, and I feel generous in doing so. Had it not been for the skillful writing, I would not have finished it.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful