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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

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I don't get it

What did you like best about Beautiful Ruins? What did you like least?

I can't figure out why people like this book so much. The story was meh, the characters were meh... I just don't get it. I finished it but I think that was just because I was trying to figure out what the hype was about. I think I might prefer more character development. With the story switching around as it did I really didn't care much about any of the characters and their stories. The narrator was good though.

Would you be willing to try another book from Jess Walter? Why or why not?

probably not

What about Edoardo Ballerini’s performance did you like?

He did a good job keeping the characters distinct and he seemed to have read the book before he narrated it (pet peeve of mine when they don't)

Did Beautiful Ruins inspire you to do anything?

not so much

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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A Beautiful Listen

Beautiful Ruins is an engaging story capturing ruined lives, ruined stories, and ruined possibilities. From the opening chapter where a beautiful blonde arrives at a small Italian fishing village, to the final chapter where stories are nicely resolved, the narration is beautiful and engaging. The characters are rich and interesting, including both fictional and historical characters. (RIchard Burton is hillarious.) The braided stories make for an interesting pathway through the novel and although some stories are less compelling than others (always a danger with this style), the author returns often enough to the story of Pasquale merit a high rating. Reading this book is a little like taking a vacation, first to Italy and then to Hollywood.

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Surprisingly good

I chose to listen to this due to other reviews that suggested it. I was glad I did. A sweet and well written/told story that warmed my heart!

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  • Stevon
  • Tempe, AZ, United States
  • 12-01-12

a good creative, imaginative story

A first time author for me, I believe I found this book when audible suggests other books you might like based on the books you've read. Very creative and imaginative, it is really well written. Set in 1962 Italy during the filming of Cleopatra and present day Italy, LA, London, Edinburgh, Portland, Seattle, and Idaho, it tells the stories of several lives intertwined with these backdrops. This is a good story and I recommend it. I really enjoyed it.

2 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Alejandra
  • ANCHORAGE, AK, United States
  • 12-01-12

A beautiful braid of stories

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

I recommend this book to anyone. It is a beautifully crafted braid of several stories of lives intertwined over the years. A beautiful listen.

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

What I liked most about this book was the feeling it left me after I finished listening. It was a feeling that all our lives are beautiful no matter what path we choose.

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

The actor performed the book very well. I appreciated the italian pronunciations as well.

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

I would take Pascoalle. I would like to hear more about how his life turned out after he married.

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  • Marianne
  • Clarksville, Michigan, United States
  • 12-01-12

What a fun, nostalgic listen!

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

Yes, I would recommend this book because it's such a delightfully nostalgic trip!l

What did you like best about this story?

Character portrayals

Which scene was your favorite?

There were so many delightful scenes, I can't choose.

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

Richard Burton, because he was Richard Burton

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  • SPCF
  • California
  • 11-30-12

So glad I discovered this book!!

This audiobook has it all - storyline, characters, setting, but most especially, an amazing narrator.

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A lovely, slow-paced read.

What did you love best about Beautiful Ruins?

The performance of the reader is amazing. He did a great job with all of the accents and even the voices, and made it very easy to listen to. I also love all the descriptive details about the Italian coast. It sounds gorgeous and made me want to go and visit!

What did you like best about this story?

I loved it flipping back and forth in time, place, and between people. It kept me in absolute suspense just waiting for the moment when they would all come together and to see how everything and everyone fit together! It was a major page-turner! I also loved that it centered a little on true events - Richard Burton and Liz Taylor filming Cleopatra in Rome. It made it that much more real.

Which scene was your favorite?

When Pascuale confronts Michael Deen at the hollywood studio office...that seems to be when a lot of questions are answered and kept me absolutely on the edge of my seat.

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

I love Pascuale. He is so tender-hearted, loves his family, wants to do the right thing always, and to me, he was the glue that held everything together throughout the whole story.

Any additional comments?

You will not regret downloading this title. It is a beautiful story.

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Jess Walter is a genius!

What made the experience of listening to Beautiful Ruins the most enjoyable?

The many-layered story - so many stories at once. I absolutely LOVED this story. The characters were all lovable (Pat at the end of the book only - didn't like him much at the beginning of his entrance to the story.)

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

The ending - I had to make sure my tears didn't interfere with my driving!

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

I haven't, but I would love too. Mr. Ballerini was fantastic. I'll definitely look into other books he's narrated.

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  • M.
  • Chesapeake, VA, United States
  • 11-28-12

quiet listen

smoothly and subtly draws the listener to the story and before you know it you are half way through the book. one could almost imagine this was written to be developed into a movie.