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Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter

Beautiful Ruins

by Jess Walter

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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2,8702052,016 (3.79)227
  1. 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)
  2. 00
    The Rocks by Peter Nichols (Anonymous user)
  3. 02
    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 227 mentions

English (202)  Spanish (1)  All (203)
Showing 1-5 of 202 (next | show all)
This book was written on & off over 15 years. It shows. Some of it is really good, amusing, satirical. Some is so disjointed it was hard to follow. ( )
  Siubhan | Feb 28, 2018 |
As an audiobook, this is a little confusing and slightly boring. ( )
  MHanover10 | Feb 4, 2018 |
A romance novel, (not my favorite genre) with constant time shifts, jarring partial novel and play stuck within and contrived storyline involving Richard Burton. Nice writing but leads to an anti-climactic ending with a rushed summary of what happened to each character...very odd, very disappointing. ( )
  dugmel | Jan 29, 2018 |
I needed something totally different to cleanse the palate after Proust, so I picked this novel up off my shelf. I had very low expectations going it and was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed this.

The form won't be surprising to anyone who reads modern literary fiction. It consists of a shifting timeline - 1960s Italy in a remote coastal village, present day Hollywood, and several spots in between. A beautiful actress finds a bit part in the cast of Cleopatra, Richard Burton knocks her up, and an up and coming film producer "fixes" the situation by sending the girl to a remote hotel on the Italian coast where she meets a young man. The connections and consequences are far-reaching and a little complicated to explain, though not complicated to read about. In the modern- day line everything comes together in the end and secrets are revealed.

There were way too many characters, the modern day parts were annoying, and several plot points struck me as cliche, but in the end I liked it anyway. The setting was great and some of the moments in the book were really moving.

So, not a great book, but I'm glad I read it and think a lot of people would like this when in the mood for something light but still interesting. ( )
  japaul22 | Jan 11, 2018 |
“Beautiful Ruins” is somewhat of a chick-lit… except much more complex and a very pleasant surprise as a result.

In this tale that melts the past with the present, the friendship and affections of Pasquale Tursi, the young reluctant owner of a decrepit pensione, and Dee Moray (aka Debra Bender), an up and coming new Hollywood actress, in 1962 fictional Porto Vergogna (a Cinque-Terre-wannabe itty-bitty town) morph itself to present-day Hollywood with Claire Silver, assistant to the arrogant Michael Deane. Add a host of characters, including Richard Burton, Elizabeth Taylor, the movie ‘Cleopatra’, and even ‘The Donner Party’, the story unfolds itself like a blooming onion – a bit fried (somewhat exaggerated, somewhat preposterous), calories-laden (inflated content), and yet tasty nonetheless (plausible, fun read). Using writing vehicles of fictional text, letters, a movie pitch, a memoir, and a play, this potentially convoluted story travels through two timelines, multiple families, and multiple locations, especially the beautiful Cinque Terre. And I read it like theater popcorn complete with a Slurpee. Despite some weightiness, I give it major bonus points for the closure that it provided all-around. Each character was addressed satisfactorily, those of the past and those of the present. I smiled.

It’s not easy to recommend this one as it doesn’t readily fit into a category. Those seeking a simple read will find this dreadful to follow; those seeking a worthy read will find the inclusion of ‘Cleopatra’ and the Donner Party to be ridiculous. For me, it was a wonderful and entertaining vacation read.

Just one quote:
From Pasquale’ mom to his younger self – on happiness:
“’Sometimes,’ she said, ‘what we want to do and what we must do are not the same.’ She put a hand on his shoulder. ‘Pasquo, the smaller the space between your desire and what is right, the happier you will be.’” ( )
  varwenea | Oct 8, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 202 (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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De grootste architectonische meesterwerken van de oude Romeinen zijn gebouwd om er wilde dieren in te laten vechten.
- Voltaire, Briefwisselingen
Cleopatra: Ik wil niet de slaaf zijn van de liefde.
Marcus Antonius: Dan zul je geen liefde kennen.
- Uit de rampenfilm Cleopatra, 1963
[Dick] Cavett heeft in 1980 vier lange interviews gehouden met Richard Burton... Burton, met vierenvijftig jaar al een schitterende ruïne, was ongekend charismatisch.
- 'Talk Story' door Louis Menand, The New Yorker, 22 november 2010
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.
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 Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:20:29 -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.

» see all 5 descriptions

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Average: (3.79)
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2 65
2.5 18
3 222
3.5 99
4 380
4.5 66
5 203

Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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