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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

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

  • 4.0 out of 5.0
  • 5 Stars
    4,069
  • 4 Stars
    3,582
  • 3 Stars
    1,857
  • 2 Stars
    548
  • 1 Stars
    393

Performance

  • 4.3 out of 5.0
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    5,193
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    2,601
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    994
  • 2 Stars
    213
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    193

Story

  • 4.0 out of 5.0
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  • 3 Stars
    1,741
  • 2 Stars
    511
  • 1 Stars
    364
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  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Compelling characters, finely woven details.

Is there anything you would change about this book?

The ending.The story was missing a great last page. In general the story was very interesting and descriptive to a fault.

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

Satisfying for the most part. The last detail however, was not.

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

Now here is where I sing copious praise! Edoardo is the melody to this song. I felt like I was watching a movie. His voice brought meaning to each word.

Was Beautiful Ruins worth the listening time?

Yes. It was a little slow to start, but worth the listen.

Any additional comments?

I did enjoy the listen. Don't think I would have gotten through it if I were reading as it didn't grab me from the first chapter.

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  • Performance
  • Story
  • lynn
  • jeffreys bay, South Africa
  • 02-05-13

Beautiful ruins

What did you love best about Beautiful Ruins?

The voice changes of the narattor

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

Pascale, there was no blasphemy.

Any additional comments?

I find the use of valugar language and blasphemy offensive.

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Liked it

Would you consider the audio edition of Beautiful Ruins to be better than the print version?

I like audiobooks, this particular one was well read, so in that sense I'd consider it better, in that I listened to the book while commuting, so I may not have had time to read a print version of it.

What other book might you compare Beautiful Ruins to and why?

It DOES NOT compare to The Help, as some reviewers have suggested. It is a fun, interesting book, somewhat engaging us into the lives of several of the characters. By no means is this book, in my opinion, nearly as good as The Help.

What about Edoardo Ballerini’s performance did you like?

He kept a good pace, and made the characters distinguishable as well as interesting.

If you were to make a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

The story of Richard Burton's lost son

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Compelling

A well woven story moving between post WW2 in Italy and the USA and the almost present. Excellent reading.

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  • C.
  • MANASQUAN, NJ, United States
  • 02-04-13

Dreadful

This book wasn’t for you, but who do you think might enjoy it more?

Noone.

Any additional comments?

This a sad collection of way too many characters. The "story" , or lack thereof, jumps from era to era, character to character, country to country. Good luck trying to keep track of where you are in the book. And then again, about half way through I realized that I didn't want to keep track and really wanted nothing more to do with the pathetic souls who wander through this dreary book.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story
  • gina
  • Santa Barbara, CA, United States
  • 02-04-13

Loved This Book

Would you consider the audio edition of Beautiful Ruins to be better than the print version?

I didn't read this book yet, but I really enjoyed the narrator's performance, so I would assume that he just took a great book and made it better. With so many reference to things in Italian, it was a plus for me to hear the correct pronunciation, which I don't think I would have accomplished on my own, just reading this book. I will probably give it a read myself at some point.

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

There were many. I really enjoyed any of the scenes that took place in the village.

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

See above.

Any additional comments?

My only critique would be that some parts could get a little slow and wandering with maybe a touch more flowery philosophical musings than was absolutely necessary. But, it was a minor annoyance, and did not take away from the overall story. I knew there were exciting things coming up, and sometimes felt like it was taking too long to get to them. But like I said, not at all reason enough to no love love love this book.

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  • Diane
  • Memphis, TN, United States
  • 02-04-13

Loved it

What did you love best about Beautiful Ruins?

great performance by narrator

What did you like best about this story?

complex story with tender and funny moments.

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

no

If you could rename Beautiful Ruins, what would you call it?

I think this is the perfect title

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Stopped listening after a few chapters.

Any additional comments?

I stopped listening after a few chapters. I might try again when I'm bored.

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Disappointed

I feel I wasted my credit on this one; I went off other recommendations but I found it very slow; I couldn't stick with it and jumped to the end just to see what happened.

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  • Performance
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  • Kim
  • United States
  • 02-04-13

Hard to get into, slow to develope.

What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

I just couldn't get into this story. It started off too slow and still hadn't picked up the pace by the 5th chapter.

What could Jess Walter have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

While I appreciated the author's descriptive elements with regards to the characters and scenery, at times it was overkill and just not necessary. It really made the book drag.

What did you like about the performance? What did you dislike?

I thought the narrator did well with the Italian accent necessary for certain characters, however I didn't care for his overall performance. His narration of female voices was too airy and wishy-washy, almost making the primary character sound dippy and contrary to how the author described her.