Melinda Ott, July 21, 2015 (view all comments by Melinda Ott)
This is one of those books that has been near the top of my TBR list for over a year, but it kept getting pushed aside for other books. Then, I received a copy through one of my postal book clubs and had to read it...and I'm so thankful that I did.
I have to admit that I was familiar with Jess Walter as a person, but not as an author before reading this. I listen to the podcast he does with Sherman Alexie and the two make a great pair. However, I couldn't quite picture the person from the podcast writing a story as chronicled in the summary. Luckily, it turns out that the man and the story merge perfectly.
Reading this book felt like an extravagant vacation--the reader goes to Rome, to a small village on the Italian coastline, to Hollywood, to Idaho, to London and Edinburgh, and to Beaverton (although that last one probably doesn't fall into the "vacation" category!). Obviously, this book is all over the place--not just geographically, but also chronologically. I was worried about that, but it did work for me in this case. I was able to follow all the story lines without any problem.
The characters are what really make this book work. I won't go into the specifics about each one (like story lines, characters abound here), but I will say that I found myself relating to all of them, including the one really unlikable (yet entertaining) character. Because there are so many people and story lines, Walter explores facets of the characters instead of developing the entire character. In another book, I would find this annoying. However, there is more than enough here so that Walter's approach is successful.
All in all, this was a lovely and satisfying book, with something for every reader. I would recommend it to anyone without hesitation.
Randall Nichols, October 14, 2013 (view all comments by Randall Nichols)
Somewhere between the film "Cinema Paradiso" and the book "The Time Traveler's Wife" sits Jess Walter's "The Beautiful Ruins." The story switches between narratives to tell a tale mixed up in the good and the bad of Hollywood's golden age, a quiet corner on the coast of Italy, and other locales. In the end, "The Beautiful Ruins" is more than a romance - it's also got tragedy and long-delayed coming of age stories mixed into a tremendously satisfying mix.
cynthia66, September 5, 2013 (view all comments by cynthia66)
You know that feeling when you are nearing the end of an awesome book and it's like when you you are eating a perfect dessert? You try to make it last but then you just end up gobbling it all up. I absolutely loved this story...everything about it. The connections, turns of fate, bittersweet loves, humor, loss, comfort. All of humanity is wrapped up in this perfect novel.
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How2BU, June 7, 2013 (view all comments by How2BU)
Remember Altman's _The Player_? This is better, not so inside-Hollywood-icky and involving more civilians, yet equally clear on the repercussions of the business of make-believe. I was disarmed by the characters' portrayals and how effectively the shifts in time/place worked. There are some hilarious insights on a whole range of things.
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Diana9009, April 10, 2013 (view all comments by Diana9009)
I am glad that I did give this book a try. It has historical fiction elements that I love. It has great characters that are ripe for discussion at a book club. It is a book that's did not want to end. But end it did and I am still remembering the story and the characters and wishing it was not over.
This book was a wonderful book about decisions made while young and the consequences to those decisions but it is primarily a book based on wonderful characters and the unexpected things that happen during life.
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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.
by Jen H.,
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.
by Jen H.
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.
by Publishers Weekly,
“Well-constructed…quirky and entertaining tale of greed, treachery, and love.”
by Daniel Handler, author of Why We Broke Up and creator of Lemony Snicket,
“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.”
by Richard Russo, author of That Old Cape Magic and Empire Falls,
“Why mince words? Beautiful Ruins is an absolute masterpiece.”
by Ben Fountain, author of Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk,
“[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.”
by Rebecca Newberger Goldstein, author of 36 Arguments for the Existence of God: A Work of Fiction,
“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.”
by Kirkus Reviews (starred review),
“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.”
by Library Journal (starred review),
“A novel shot in sparkly Technicolor...re-imagines history in a package so appealing we'd be idiots not to buy it.”
by Huffington Post,
“A marvel, an absolute gem of a beach read that is both hilarious and heartbreaking.”
“Walter vividly draws a world both tender and cutthroat, where ambition battles reality, daydreams fight doldrums and sometimes win.”
by Kansas City Star,
“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.”
by New York Times,
“A monument to crazy love....Walter [is] a believer in capricious destiny with a fine, freewheeling sense of humor.”
by Entertainment Weekly,
“Expertly scratches the seasonal itch for both literary depth and dazzle.”
by Boston Globe,
“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.”
by The Plain Dealer,
“Beautiful....A shining, imaginative tale...Beautiful Ruins shows novelists how it is done.”
by Maureen Corrigan, NPR's Fresh Air,
“A literary miracle.”
by Minneapolis Star Tribune,
“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 lets-go-everywhere structure to the comedy in the marrow of its sentences, are wholly life-affirming.”
“Entrancing novel…Walter's turns of phrase are as brilliant as his plot twists, making for a compelling, fun read.”
by The Stranger,
“Beautiful Ruins is satisfying and delicate, a spectacular story of love, frustration, selfish intent, and the patience of the human heart.”
by New York Times Book Review,
“[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.”
by Philadelphia Inquirer,
“A beautiful narrative....This writer is a genius of the modern American moment.”
“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.”
“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 and a gut wisdom…You'll want to explore these Ruins.”
by Selma Blair, the New York Post,
“It is a powerful and lush book.”
by Harper Collins,
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. Hailed by critics and loved by readers of literary and historical fiction, Beautiful Ruins is the story of an almost-love affair that begins on the Italian coast in 1962... and is rekindled in Hollywood fifty years later.
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