Beautiful Ruins

A Novel

Walter, Jess

Book - 2012
Average Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5.
Beautiful Ruins
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.

Publisher: New York : Harper, c2012
Edition: 1st ed
ISBN: 9780061928123
Branch Call Number: FICTION WALTER 2012
Characteristics: 337 p. :,map ;,24 cm


From Library Staff

A story that transports you at once to Italy and Hollywood, California; between the 1960s and the present. A lovely story of life and longing. Pick it up just for the cover - it's beautiful. - Sarah O.

Join the discussion on Sept. 18, 2014. 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, approachi... Read More »

This romantic and enjoyable novel follows a young Italian innkeeper and his almost-love affair with a beautiful American starlet. Beautiful Ruins has it all, good characters, lyrical and witty writing, several fantastic settings, and-- bonus!- a very funny cameo by Richard Burton.

This book tells of the almost-love affair that begins on the Italian coast in 1962...and is rekindled in Hollywood fifty years later.

A tragicomedy about flawed humans, true love and hubris, illustrating the author's assertion that "life is a glorious catastrophe."

From the critics

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Feb 25, 2015
  • mydianne rated this: 4.5 stars out of 5.

fun read, definitely look for more work from this author

Aug 21, 2014
  • peggymurphy rated this: 1 stars out of 5.

To me, this was just a group of unrelated characters, none of whom I could believe in. The scene-setting in Italy, Seattle, etc. was nice--but the book was a disappointment.

Aug 18, 2014
  • ddoles3 rated this: 1 stars out of 5.

this novel reads as though the author took his writing to an editor and allowed them to put it together. the disparate themes never come together adequately and the central character, the Italian hotelier, is implausible. the final chapter is expository and seemed to be the only way the author was able to finish the novel.
save your time and read something that was thoughtfully written.

Jun 23, 2014
  • azaleski11 rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

This was a beautiful novel and very well written.

Jan 08, 2014
  • hania4987 rated this: 3 stars out of 5.

"... and on and on it goes, in a thousand directions, everything occurring at once, in a great storm of the present, of the now --" intersecting lives in a specific time and place ... the various threads that lead to that point and the ripples through time into the present of the choices made ...

Dec 30, 2013
  • Liselara rated this: 0.5 stars out of 5.

After reading all of the wonderful feedback on this book, I put it on hold right away but when I started to read it, I was hugely disappointed. I did not find the story or characters very cohesive and it is down right crude in many places. I just didn't "get it", although in fairness, other readers most certainly did.

Dec 23, 2013
  • _Amazon_ rated this: 1.5 stars out of 5.

I just could not get into this story. I found it strange, and really didn't come to care about any of the characters. I eventually gave up and did not finish it.

Dec 09, 2013
  • B_Jane_Thomson rated this: 3.5 stars out of 5.

I agree heartily with those who enjoyed this novel. Having lived for a short time in this region of Italy, I found the descriptions of the region and its people endearing. The plot was both humorous and touching. Human errors led to misunderstandings and ultimately some wonderful conclusions. This book is one to read any time of the year!

Dec 07, 2013
  • molmil8 rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

This book was a big surprise to me. I thought it would be average but it ended up being excellent as the characters and story held my interest until the end. The descriptions of places were beautiful without being boring.

Dec 03, 2013
  • janetplanet9 rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

My Shawnee staff pick for Oct/Nov 2013.
The story begins in 1962 in the tiny, isolated, Italian fishing village of Porto Vergogna, where Pasquale Tursi is trying to transform his rundown pensione, The Hotel Adequate View, into a tourist destination. He looks up from his beach-building labors to see the tall, beautiful and blonde American actress, Dee Morey, stepping onto the rocky shore, and is immediately smitten. Cut to present day Hollywood where Claire Silver, who left her doctoral film studies program to work for legendary movie producer Michael Deane, hoping she’d get to make smart, moving films but instead listening to reality TV show pitches, is starting her day. From here the story weaves back and forth between two continents and a timespan of fifty years, coming to a satisfying if bittersweet conclusion. Beautiful Ruins has several qualities that make it a good beach read – it reads fast, is entertaining and funny, and the sun-drenched settings shout summertime. Don’t wait, though. This novel will satisfy fans of literary fiction all year long.

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Sep 19, 2013
  • EricaReynolds rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

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.


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Sep 19, 2013
  • jpainter rated this: 4.5 stars out of 5.

“And even if they don't find what they're looking for, isn't it enough to be out walking together in the sunlight?”


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