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Beautiful Ruins: A Novel by Jess Walter
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Beautiful Ruins: A Novel (edition 2012)

by Jess Walter

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1,8131423,859 (3.86)142
Member:DonnaFH
Title:Beautiful Ruins: A Novel
Authors:Jess Walter
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Rating:*****
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Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter

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» See also 142 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 140 (next | show all)
This book was a major disappointment to me! I noticed the beautiful cover right away and I’ve heard so much good about it. So I was excited when I won a set for my book club. Unfortunately, for me, the book did not live up to it’s hype.

The book got off to a good start in the first chapter, set in Italy in the early 1960s. But it quickly went downhill from there. The story bounced between decades and locations, which usually doesn’t bother me. But there were so many characters, mostly unlikeable, and so many side stories, mostly uninteresting. There were two main characters, with an intersting storyline, and two or three more who had necessary supporting roles. But there were some characters who really did not need to be there, who added nothing to the story, and who made the book incredibly slow. There is a problem when I am reading a book, and at the end of each chapter I ask myself….”Is it over yet! Please!” And the storyline involving Richard Burton was a negative, too. I don’t understand why he was brought into the story. I personally think the story would have worked better using a fictional movie star in the same role. But maybe that’s just me?

Actually, I enjoyed the end of the book (discounting the epilogue), which was set where we started out, in Italy, and featured the same two characters from the first chapter. If we could have eliminated some of the characters and cut some of the chapters, I may actually have enjoyed this book!

I obviously am in the clear minority here, as most readers rate this book very highly, so please do not let me review deter you from reading this if you are considering it. Take a look at some of the other reviews before you decide this is not the book for you.

Source: book club set won ( )
  Time2Read2 | Oct 9, 2014 |
Moody. Intricate story. Strong characters. Liked it. ( )
  Harrod | Oct 8, 2014 |
This is one of the best books that I have read in a while and definitely the best audio book that I have ever listened to. His voices were fantastic. At first I thought I would have problems with the different POV, but after the first couple of jumps I didn't have any problems. I plan on recommending this to everyone that asks for a book to read and plan on reading the rest of Walter's novels.

( )
  KatieEmilySmith | Sep 23, 2014 |
Entertaining read. More drama and romance then I generally prefer. In the end though, I had grown quite close to the main characters, which speaks highly of the writing itself. I just prefer more mystery; a darker, bleaker landscape than one of a life well-lived and remembered. ( )
  blockbuster1994 | Sep 9, 2014 |
I liked this book. Hard to put down; ambitious, but without trying to be more than it was; thoroughly consuming. Memorable? Maybe not. But made me very happy as I read it and seems to contain some particularly interesting, and sometimes touching, musings about life. Also, Italy! And Italian! Made me itch to travel. However, one of the biggest problems was that one of the main plot lines, a romantic relationship, just wasn't realistic to me. I couldn't quite buy it, and that took away a bit from the overall story for me.

There was plenty of good in this book, and I highly recommend it for a fun summer read. Lots of little details make this enjoyable. I particularly liked that early in the book, a character suggests that perhaps their lives are like water going down a drain, whirling around and around until they reach the hole; and then the last chapter was a sort of epitaph that whirled around and touched on the lives of all the minor characters. The book ended when the whole thing finally went down the drain! ( )
  GraceZ | Sep 6, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 140 (next | show all)
Ruins constitutes a departure for Walter, another unplowed field, and he harrows it straight and true, turning up the fertile humus of the culture’s soiled psyche. Beautiful Ruins collides its broad range of characters in unexpected, unique ways, and the wonderful light touch of the satire makes them eminently believable. Unlike the Juvenalian satirists, whose righteous indignation sometimes results in flat, two-dimensional, cardboard characterizations, Walter’s people inspire sympathy, belief, even a little self-examination. Am I like this? Do I have any qualities that resemble the ones I’m reading about here? If I do, where do I get help?

Jess Walter has written a novel that sprawls on the lawn, looks up fondly at the achingly blue American sky and gazes into the deep humor of our collective human condition. That’s what good satire does—it reminds us who we really are. Humans.
added by zhejw | editPaste, David Langness (Aug 7, 2012)
 
Walter is simply great on how we live now, and ­— in this particular book — on how we lived then and now, here and there. “Beautiful Ruins” is his Hollywood novel, his Italian novel and his Pacific Northwestern novel all braided into one: an epic romance, tragicomic, invented and reported (Walter knows his “Cleopatra” trivia), magical yet hard-boiled (think García Márquez meets Peter Biskind), with chapters that encompass not just Italy in the ’60s and present-day Hollywood, but also Seattle and Britain and Idaho, plot strands unfolding across the land mines of the last half-century — an American landscape of vice, addiction, loss and heartache, thwarted careers and broken dreams. It is also a novel about love: amorous love, filial love, parental love and the deep, sustaining love of true friendship....

His balanced mixture of pathos and comedy stirs the heart and amuses as it also rescues us from the all too human pain that is the motor of this complex and ever-evolving novel. Any reservations the reader might have about another book about Hollywood, about selling one’s soul (or someone else’s, and pocketing the change) will probably be swept aside by this high-wire feat of bravura storytelling. Walter is a talented and original writer.
added by zhejw | editNew York Times, Helen Schulman (Jul 6, 2012)
 
This novel is a standout not just because of the inventiveness of its plot, but also because of its language. Jess Walter is essentially a comic writer: Sometimes he's asking readers to laugh at the human condition; sometimes he's inviting us to just plain laugh.
added by zhejw | editNPR, Maureen Corrigan (Jun 18, 2012)
 

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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Jess Walterprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Ballerini, EdoardoNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Dedication
To Anne, Brooklyn, Ava, and Alec
First words
The dying actress arrived in his village the only way one could come directly -- in a boat that motored into the cove, lurched past the rock jetty, and bumped against the end of the pier.
Quotations
Pasquo, the smaller the space between your desire and what is rght, the happier you will be.(page 304)
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
Follows a young Italian innkeeper and his almost-love affair with a beautiful American starlet, which draws him into a glittering world filled with unforgettable characters.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0061928127, Hardcover)

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 fifty 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.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:53:24 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

A novel that spans fifty years. The Italian housekeeper and his long-lost American starlet; the producer who once brought them together, and his assistant. A glittering world filled with unforgettable characters.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 5 descriptions

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Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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