Beautiful Ruins

Thursday, January 10, 2013



Beautiful Ruins
by Jess Walter
★★★★

This story flips between 1962 Italy and present-day L.A.; between an Italian man named Pasquale who runs a quiet hotel near Cinque Terre and a young woman yearning to make a great film in reality TV-driven market in Hollywood.

There are so many crucial threads holding the story together. There’s Alvis Bender, an aspiring writer and struggling alcoholic; Michael, a washed up producer with a plastic surgery obsession and finally Dee, an American actress whose life draws them all together. Each person is stuck, unable to make the decisions needed to move on with their lives.

For me, this book is even better after it marinates for awhile. I actually like it so much more a month later than I did the moment I finished it. I needed time to think about each of the characters and the way they worked in the story. Each one plays a significant role, though that role isn’t obvious until the end.

Any single character’s life on its own doesn’t make for a very compelling read, but it is the combination of them all that creates something superb. It’s all about the balance between the past and the future, regrets and missed chances, etc. The way each person’s life and their choices affects everyone around them is a powerful thing and this book captures that.

BOTTOM LINE: A well-crafted novel full of nostalgic what ifs. Curl up with it and imagine you’re in Italy.   

Image of Cinque Terre from here.

10 comments:

  1. I have this one on my TBR. It was on so many best of 2012 lists. It sounds really great. Interesting how you liked it more the longer you thought about it. Funny how some books work that way.

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  2. I really enjoyed this one too!

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  3. You are right on about this book. I have recommended it to everyone I know!

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  4. I've wanted to read this since I first heard about it last spring, and I desperately want to curl up and pretend I'm in Italy. Better yet, I want to curl up and read it IN Italy, but barring that, I'll make do with my imagination...

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  5. Oh, this book was SO GOOD. And it is weird because I never really appreciated how good it really was based on reviews...it is nearly impossible to describe. It just left me feeling elated and completely impressed with Walter's cleverness and creativity. He has written something unlike anything else I've ever read.

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  6. I was one of the few readers who did not love this book; I had the audio.

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  7. Kristi - I felt the same way about Cloud Atlas. I think sometimes books need time to simmer in your brain before you can fully appreciate them.

    annieb - I love finding a good book to recommend!

    Kerry M - Ha, yes I'd definietly rather read it in Italy!

    Sandy - It is surprisingly hard to describe. It's not that the story is complicated, it's just that the atmosphere is what makes it so good.

    Diane - I don't think I loved it as much as most people. I enjoyed the atmosphere and stories, but it wasn't a favorite.

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  8. I literally just finished reading a review of this book on another blog … they loved it too. I guess I need to add it to the TBR … and remember to let it marinate.

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  9. It's definitely a marinating book. It's also the book I find myself most recommending to people, especially those that don't read as much, because it's really approachable and has the fun movie thing going on.

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  10. Jenners - I'll be curious to see your thoughts on it!

    Nikki - That's true, the movie thing makes it more appealing to someone who might not read a lot.

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