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Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter

Beautiful Ruins

by Jess Walter

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
3,0922192,652 (3.79)237
  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 237 mentions

English (216)  Spanish (1)  All languages (217)
Showing 1-5 of 216 (next | show all)
Wow...not even sure how to describe this well, but I loved every part of this story: the words, the tale, the imagery, the ending! ( )
  decaturmamaof2 | Nov 28, 2018 |
This story covers many decades and several continents. Actors, actresses, and producers from the American movie industry play a part and early in the book their lives become entwined with the life of a young Italian innkeeper. The chapters take place in 1962, and in the present, and sometimes somewhere in between. The lives of many of the characters are in ruins and beg to be redeemed before the book ends.

The book reveals an interesting cast of broken people and as I read it, I found they, even with all of their flaws, intrigued me. And in spite of the years and hardships there is also an underlying story of friendship, respect and love that endures to the end.
( )
  Rdglady | Nov 20, 2018 |
Beautiful Ruins a delight to read. Moving across time from 1962 to the present, across continents from Italy to America to London, we meet famous actors, Italian dreamers, and the men and women who come to Hollywood to try to make dreams come true. This is a novel about love and dreams and how we sometimes settle or find the fulfillment of our dreams in unexpected ways. Above all, we are entranced with the characters we meet and the adventures they take us on. Highly recommend. ( )
  bookishblond | Oct 24, 2018 |
READ. THIS. BOOK. The voices of the characters will resonate in your head and you will identify with all of them. The story is well crafted; amusing, heartfelt & thoroughly enjoyable. I devoured it. Bellisima! ( )
  MeeshN_AZ | Oct 18, 2018 |
A near-perfect novel, full of humor and pathos and bitterness and hope--the classic novelistic themes brought to a modern setting. Frank O'Connor said that a novel is "something that’s built around the character of time, the nature of time, and the effects that time has on events and characters...a sense of continuing life," and Beautiful Ruins, which follows its major characters from their youth in 1962 to somewhere around 2008, meets that now-dated standard. Even the characters too young to have been included in this sweep of time are intimately affected by events before their birth. At the end, everything connects in ways that are right but perhaps could not have been anticipated. There is a sense that, for all the pain and regret that circumstances and poor decisions can lead to over a lifetime, somehow all has been well, and all is well, and all will be well, at that higher perspective from which all our parts are only bit parts.

Which is not to say that this book is in any way "heavy." It's funny, and a good read. It's ingeniously constructed, each chapter shifting in perspective, time, and place, yet fitting in with the others in a jigsaw puzzle that comes together in a neat way. The characters are vivid, and I somehow liked even the ones unworthy of being liked. If you are a fan of classic movies, you may take particular pleasure in the journey--some of the early action takes place during the making of "Cleopatra," a movie I found not nearly as bad as its reputation. In short--this is a book for thinking people that there's no need to think over. Enjoy. ( )
  john.cooper | Oct 15, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 216 (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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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: The 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
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)
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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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.
Haiku summary

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 6 descriptions

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Average: (3.79)
1 10
2 72
2.5 18
3 233
3.5 100
4 402
4.5 69
5 216

Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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An edition of this book was published by Recorded Books.

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