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Beautiful Ruinsby Jess Walter
Jess Walter gets nearer the Pulitzer with Beautiful Ruins. Chance meetings during the 1962 filming of Cleopatra in Italy set in motion events that spiral into the present day. Walter captures perfectly how the best part of life is that it doesn't turn out at all like we thought it would. There's humor, tragedy, redemption, and one of the most joyful endings you will ever read.
An epic story moving from the Italian coast in 1962 to current-day Hollywood, Beautiful Ruins is an absolutely wonderful novel. It reminds the reader that life really is both sad and lovely at the same time. Walter skillfully weaves together the lives of his many characters that span generations and countries to a very satisfying conclusion. I highly recommend this stunning and original novel.
This isn't only my top pick for the year; it's also one of my all-time favorite books. Jess Walter has created a masterpiece of storytelling. Beautiful Ruins is both hilarious and heartbreaking, and the characters live on in your mind long after you finish the book. Once you've read it, you'll want everyone you know to read it because it's so fantastic.
How to describe Beautiful Ruins? It's such an odd yet enchanting book. The characters are a quirky mix of the commonplace and the extraordinary: a befuddled innkeeper from a tiny Italian town, a haunted ex-military wannabe novelist, a beautiful but sick young starlet, a hideously nipped-and-tucked aging movie producer, a stranded, strung-out musician, a screenwriter pitching a movie on the Donner Party, and Richard Burton. What? Yes, Richard Burton. It all seems eccentric and decidedly bizarre, yet Beautiful Ruins is a thoroughly lovely book. Witnessing the craftsmanship with which Walter braids these characters' story threads together is beautiful indeed. Funny, sweet, heart-wrenching, and profound, Beautiful Ruins has all of your literary touch points covered.
Synopses & Reviews
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.
"Edgar Award–winning author Walter's well-constructed, bittersweet romance begins in April 1962, when a young innkeeper, Pasquale Tursi, puts up the 'ethereal' American actress Dee Moray, who has arrived supposedly sick with stomach cancer at the remote Italian port of Vergogna. She has come from the extravagant Rome location of Cleopatra along with the philandering, tempestuous co-stars Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton (Walter's title is taken from a description of Burton at 54). Pasquale soon discovers that 20th Century–Fox's chief troubleshooter, the young Michael Deane, has in fact whisked Dee, pregnant with the married Burton's child, away from the public eye to avoid scandal. Predictably, Pasquale falls in love with the beleaguered, vulnerable Dee, who is under pressure from Deane and the studio to get a discrete abortion in Switzerland. Fifty years later, the elderly Pasquale shows up on a Hollywood back lot looking for information about Dee's present whereabouts, much to the consternation of Deane, now a largely washed-up figure. The twisty narrative rolls on to show what actually became of Dee and her son, Pat Bender, a middle-aged, small-time performer. The Hollywood glitterati, led by the duplicitous Deane, come off looking thoroughly jaded and shallow compared to the stately, chivalrous Pasquale in Walter's (Citizen Vince) quirky and entertaining tale of greed, treachery, and love. Agent: Warren Frazier, John Hawkins & Associates." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"This is a blockbuster, with romance, majesty, comedy, smarts, and a cast of thousands. There's lights, there's camera, there's action. If you want anything more from a novel than Jess Walter gives you in Beautiful Ruins, you're getting thrown out of the theater." Daniel Handler, author of Why We Broke Up and creator of Lemony Snicket
"Why mince words? Beautiful Ruins is an absolute masterpiece." Richard Russo, author of That Old Cape Magic and Empire Falls
"[N]othing less than brilliant, a tour de force that crosses decades, continents, and genres, to powerful and often hilarious effect....A masterful novel of love, loss, and hard-won hope that satisfies on every level." Ben Fountain, author of Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk
"Within a page-turner of a plot, these triumphantly vulnerable characters leap off the page to take up permanent residence in your inner life. The effect is so powerful that to be untouched by Beautiful Ruins might well be like having no inner life at all." Rebecca Newberger Goldstein, author of 36 Arguments for the Existence of God: A Work of Fiction
"A brilliant, madcap meditation on fate....Walter's prose is a joy-funny, brash, witty and rich with ironic twists. He's taken all of the tricks of the postmodern novel and scoured out the cynicism, making for a novel that's life-affirming but never saccharine." Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
"A novel shot in sparkly Technicolor....re-imagines history in a package so appealing we'd be idiots not to buy it." Library Journal (starred review)
"A marvel, an absolute gem of a beach read that is both hilarious and heartbreaking." Huffington Post
"Walter vividly draws a world both tender and cutthroat, where ambition battles reality, daydreams fight doldrums and sometimes win." Interview magazine
"Lyrical, heartbreaking, and funny...Walter closes the deal with such command that you begin to wonder why up till now he's not often been mentioned as one of the best novelists around. Beautiful Ruins might just correct that oversight." Kansas City Star
"A monument to crazy love...Walter [is] a believer in capricious destiny with a fine, freewheeling sense of humor." New York Times
"Expertly scratches the seasonal itch for both literary depth and dazzle." Entertainment Weekly
"A novel with pathos, piercing wit and, most important, the generous soul of a literary classic....Walter has planted himself firmly in the first rank of American authors." Boston Globe
"Beautiful....A shining, imaginative tale....Beautiful Ruins shows novelists how it is done." The Plain Dealer
"A literary miracle." Maureen Corrigan, NPR's Fresh Air
"His [Walter's] characters are long-suffering, prone to failure and sometimes at death's door. But the verve and enthusiasm of this novel, from its let's-go-everywhere structure to the comedy in the marrow of its sentences, are wholly life-affirming." Minneapolis Star Tribune
"Entrancing novel...Walter's turns of phrase are as brilliant as his plot twists, making for a compelling, fun read." People
"Beautiful Ruins is satisfying and delicate, a spectacular story of love, frustration, selfish intent, and the patience of the human heart." The Stranger
"[A] high-wire feat of bravura storytelling....[Walter's] 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." New York Times Book Review
"A beautiful narrative....This writer is a genius of the modern American moment." Philadelphia Inquirer
"His masterpiece...an interlocking, continent-hopping, decade-spanning novel with heart and pathos to burn, all big dreams, lost loves, deep longings and damn near perfect." Salon
"Walter is a very, very funny writer and can do Hollywood satire with the best of them. But this is also a novel with a live, beating heart, full of sympathy for its characters....You'll want to explore these Ruins." Newsday
"It is a powerful and lush book." Selman Blair, the New York Post
The acclaimed, award-winning author of the national bestseller The Financial Lives of the Poets returns with his funniest, most romantic, and most purely enjoyable novel yet: the story of an almost-love affair that begins on the Italian coast in 1962... and is rekindled in Hollywood fifty years later.
About the Author
Jess Walter is the author of the national bestseller The Financial Lives of the Poets, the National Book Award finalist The Zero, the Edgar Award-winning Citizen Vince, Land of the Blind, and the New York Times Notable Book Over Tumbled Graves. He lives in Spokane, Washington, with his family.
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