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Beautiful Ruins by Walter Jess

Beautiful Ruins (edition 2013)

by Walter Jess

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1,530None4,791 (3.87)116
Title:Beautiful Ruins
Authors:Walter Jess
Info:Penguin Books (2013), Paperback
Collections:Your library

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Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter

1960s (18) 2012 (18) 2013 (40) 2014 (6) adult (5) American (6) audible (5) audio (11) audiobook (12) book club (15) Cinque Terre (12) ebook (19) fiction (192) historical fiction (19) Hollywood (77) Italy (134) Kindle (14) literary fiction (13) love (13) love story (6) movies (10) novel (24) read (14) read in 2012 (19) read in 2013 (19) Richard Burton (25) romance (20) to-read (83) wishlist (6) WWII (7)

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» See also 116 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 121 (next | show all)

Oh my, yes. I'm not a slice-of-life fan like some of the folks in my book club, but I appreciate a stellar read when I meet it.

I'll compare this book with - yet again - "The Marriage Plot" by Jeffrey Eugenides. In this case, it truly feels as if the authors of both volumes were writing stream-of-conscious or off-the-cuff. A novel for the sake of telling a story. Not without its own themes, mind you, but created far more to tell a story (with a capital S) than to tell a lesson (unfortunately, very much usually with a capital L).

The difference is that "The Marriage Plot" is shite, and this is brilliance.

This novel plays with its characters - and especially with the 2 main protagonists. But that's completely wrong because Walter excels at taking bit parts and making them come alive after a few paragraphs. More so than any author I can name at this very moment. It's rather breathtaking, in fact.

The other thing the novel plays with is time. It's very likely its central theme. Not just that we jump around from the 60s to the present time and back throughout. But that time is essential to how the characters grow and learn and become who they always should have been.

I did think the ending was a mite bit too pat (haha, for those who have already read it). I forgive Walter because he gave me Richard Burton in a boat off the Italian coast extemporaneously being the genius he truly was. ( )
  khage | Apr 3, 2014 |
A well-written, funny novel that doesn't turn out the way it might have in the hands of a lesser writer. Walter does a masterful job of moving between different times, places, and characters. A marvelously entertaining story. ( )
  eapalmer | Mar 13, 2014 |
The Short of It:

Fitting title for a book that just didn’t work for me.

The Rest of It:

This story bounces back and forth between 1962 and the present. Pasquale Tursi, an innkeeper at the not so illustrious Adequate View Inn, finds himself in the middle of a scandalous cover-up. Dee Moray, an actress on the set of Cleopatra is sent away to deal with her cancer. At least, that is what SHE has been told when in reality, what she is dealing with is an unwanted pregnancy and the father happens to be none other than Richard Burton himself.

The Italian setting is lovely as is Pasquale Tursi. Even with his broken English, he is wonderful but there isn’t nearly enough of him in this novel. And Dee? A pleasant girl but clueless. Not really anyone I wanted to get to know. And the entire Richard Burton back story? Please. I will say this, I liked the parts set in Italy much more than the parts of the story set in Los Angeles. That whole Hollywood scene just isn’t my thing and I live here!

Many have given this book high marks. It’s been described as hilarious and fun. I didn’t find it hilarious or fun. At times I found myself frustrated with the back and forth and other times, I just didn’t care what happened to these people. Had it not been a book club pick, I probably would have put it down. It seemed a little cartoonish and stereotypical and as deep as I dug, I didn’t find any depth whatsoever.

I will say this though, with Walter’s work being so well-received by others, I would absolutely read another book by him. I think in this case, the subject matter just didn’t work for me.

For more reviews, visit my blog: Book Chatter. ( )
  tibobi | Mar 11, 2014 |
I really enjoyed this book, but I think perhaps you have to be "of a certain age" to truly appreciate the Richard Burton/Elizabeth Taylor pas de deux. Liz and Dick invented the concept of free publicity via the tabloid journalist. ( )
  cmartlib | Feb 24, 2014 |
This is a superb piece of writing. It is a journey of people,of Dee Moray, a innocent,would be actress, the heartless Hollywood producer held together by plastic surgery and Pasquale, the simple innkeeper of "Adequate View " Inn on the unknown Cinque Terre Island of Italy. There are so many funny lines coming from Pa tand his sad life as a would be rock star / comedian. i loved how Michael Deanne describes himself and then how he is described , the aged baby face megomaniac, don't look too closely everyone is warned. It is a novel rich is humor, pathos, irony and at its heart, still a love story. Loved this book. ( )
  Smits | Jan 22, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 121 (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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To Anne, Brooklyn, Ava, and Alec
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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.
Pasquo, the smaller the space between your desire and what is rght, the happier you will be.(page 304)
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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)

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Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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