The No. 1 New York Times Bestseller
Jess Walter's Beautiful Ruins is a gorgeous, glamorous novel set in 1960s Italy and a modern Hollywood studio.
The story begins in 1962. Somewhere 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 views an apparition: a beautiful woman, a vision in white, approaching him on a boat. She is an American starlet, he soon learns, and she is dying.
And the story begins again today, half a world away in Hollywood, when an elderly Italian man shows up on a movie studio's back lot searching for the woman he last saw at his hotel fifty years before.
Gloriously inventive, funny, tender and constantly surprising, Beautiful Ruins is a novel full of fabulous and yet very flawed people, all of them striving towards another sort of life, a future that is both delightful and yet, tantalizingly, seems just out of reach.
'Magic...A monument to crazy love with a deeply romantic heart' New York Times
'A novel shot in sparkly Technicolor' Booklist
'Hilarious and compelling' Esquire
'Beautiful Ruins is a novel unlike any other you're likely to read this year' Nick Hornby, The Believer
"Why mince words? Beautiful Ruins is an absolute masterpiece."
I read one of Walter’s previous novels about 3 or 4 years ago – Citizen Vince and absolutely loved it. His latest, Beautiful Ruins was bought for me by my wife back in July as a present; though in actual fact she read it before me. It would be fair to say she enjoyed it immensely.
Having only previously read the one book by the author which was fairly well entrenched in the crime fiction genre, I’m unsure if Walter has departed from “crime” before this novel or not. To worry about labelling it I suppose is irrelevant. I’d rather read a well written novel with no criminal undertones than a poorly written, unsatisfying police procedural.
Love, romance, celebrity, Hollywood, Cleopatra, Richard Burton, war, illness, family, death, control, substance abuse, screenwriting, hotelry, tourism, Italy, dreams, passion, responsibility, forgiveness and hope all figure throughout this charming tale.
Could a brief, unspoken, unacknowledged spark of romance in Italy in 1962, still flicker and prevail across fifty years and separate lives lived before finally igniting?
Read it yourself and find out.
Overall, Walter’s book was for me interesting, enjoyable and entertaining and at its conclusion fairly satisfying. Hand on heart, it didn’t quite reach the high spots that I had hoped for, but it could be me being picky. (Citizen Vince ticked a box or two more!) Reminded me in parts of the film Letters To Juliet, with a bit less treacle and slightly less sugar.
I have 3 or 4 more books by the author that I will hope to get to in the next year or two.
4 stars from 5
My copy was purchased new for me from Waterstones as a present.