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Beautiful Ruins (2012)

by Jess Walter

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
4,2222652,782 (3.78)284
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.
  1. 10
    The Rocks by Peter Nichols (Anonymous user)
  2. 00
    The Pirate's Daughter by Margaret Cezair-Thompson (BookshelfMonstrosity)
    BookshelfMonstrosity: Exotic backdrops -- Italy in Beautiful Ruins and Jamaica in The Pirate's Daughter -- combine with Hollywood glamor (and scandal) in these engaging historical novels, in which past events influence present-day situations. Both feature cameo appearances by real-life movie stars.… (more)
  3. 13
    A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan (wandering_star)
    wandering_star: Does what this book is trying to do; does it better.
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» See also 284 mentions

English (262)  Spanish (1)  All languages (263)
Showing 1-5 of 262 (next | show all)
Love these ruins. ( )
  ben_r47 | Feb 22, 2024 |
I think this one should be a 3.5 star but since I liked more than I disliked I'll err on the high side.

The beginning is great, it gets a little slow, and the ending is rushed. Overall, it's an interesting story with many different angles. What we were given was very good, but I wanted (and still want) to know more about each person and each of the angles.

( )
  hmonkeyreads | Jan 25, 2024 |
I'm in the minority with my ratings for this book. It was just ok for me. I didn't care for the way the author portrayed most of the women in this book. Although if I think about it, the men didn't come off all that well either. There were a few too many characters and side characters across the generations bouncing back and forth from 1960s Italy to more recent times in Scotland and California. Not my cup of tea. ( )
  ellink | Jan 22, 2024 |
This book seemed like an amalgam of old romantic movies filmed in a romantic coastal location. In reading it, the American woman and Italian gentleman-of-a-certain-age, were "played" by Mary Martin and Ezio Pinza. ( )
  maryelisa | Jan 16, 2024 |
Another bad book club selection.
As usual, the problem is the story. There is little direction and host of irrelevant characters. In one word: POINTLESS.
Would not recommend. ( )
  MXMLLN | Jan 12, 2024 |
Showing 1-5 of 262 (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)
 

» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Jess Walterprimary authorall editionscalculated
Ballerini, EdoardoNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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Epigraph
The ancient Romans built their greatest masterpieces of architecture for wild beasts to fight in.
-- Voltaire, The Complete Letters
Cleopatra: I will not have love as my master.
Marc Antony: Then you will not have love.
-- from the 1963 disaster film Cleopatra
[Dick] Cavett's four great interviews with Richard Burton were done in 1980...Burton, fifty-four at the time, and already a beautiful ruin, was mesmerizing.
-'Talk Story' by Louis Menand, The New Yorker, 22 November 2010
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)
But aren't all great quests folly? El Dorado and the Fountain of Youth and the search for intelligent life in the cosmos--we know what's out there. It's what Isn't that truly compels us....true quests aren't measured in time or distance anyway, so much as in hope. There are only two good outcomes for a quest like this, the hope of the serendipitous savant--sail for Asia and stumble on America--and the hope of scarecrows and tin men: that you find out you had the thing you sought all along. (p.428)
All we have is the story we tell. Everything we do, every decision we make, our strength, weakness, motivation, history, and character--...it's our story...Your parents don't get to tell your story. Your sisters don't....No one gets to tell you what your life means! (p.405-6)
...the more you lived the more regret and longing you suffered, that life was a glorious catastrophe... (p.416-7)
Some memories remain close; you can shut your eyes and find yourself back in them. These are first-person memories--I memories. But there are second person memories, too, distant you memories, and these are trickier: you watch yourself in disbelief... (p. 394)
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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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.

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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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