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. Recommended By Dianah H., Powells.com
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.
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.
Why mince words? Beautiful Ruins is an absolute masterpiece. --Richard Russo
A ridiculously talented writer. --New York Times