Beautiful Ruins
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Beautiful Ruins

3.72 of 5 stars 3.72  ·  rating details  ·  59,778 ratings  ·  8,622 reviews
The story begins in 1962. On a rocky patch of the sun-drenched Italian coastline, a young innkeeper, chest-deep in daydreams, looks on 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...more
Hardcover, 337 pages
Published June 12th 2012 by Harper (first published June 4th 2012)
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Beautiful Ruins by Jess WalterThe Round House by Louise ErdrichBring Up the Bodies by Hilary MantelThis Is How You Lose Her by Junot DíazBehind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo
New York Times 100 Notable Books of 2012
1st out of 100 books — 419 voters
The Fault in Our Stars by John GreenInsurgent by Veronica RothCity of Lost Souls by Cassandra ClareGone Girl by Gillian FlynnPandemonium by Lauren Oliver
Best Books of 2012
81st out of 2,889 books — 9,046 voters


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Community Reviews

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Diane Yannick
This book started with such promise. Pasquale was a great character and I would have enjoyed following his story. The Italian setting was lush and Dee Moray's story was interesting until it got crushed by all the random characters and story lines. Richard Burton and Liz Taylor? Really? Just seemed like a mishmash of people who were trying too hard to convey messages.

I could not wait to finish this book and escape from these people who make life so damned complicated for themselves and others. F...more
Jason
Preconcetti sventato ancora una volta!

Whoever designed the cover of this novel and came up with its title (because I refuse to believe either of these disasters were Jess Walter’s doing) must have had one thing in mind: make this book appear to be as much of a chick-lit beach read as possible. And yes, while there are certainly elements of the chick-lit beach read here—some tender relationships, a sprinkle of sentimentality, a romance or twelve—it would be highly unfair to categorize it as so, b...more
Richard Reviles Censorship Always in All Ways
Pearl Ruled

Rating: 2.5* of five (p88)

Story of romantic love at first sight ranging from 1962 to the present, and involving a staggering amount of cluttered narrative and facile, stereotypical characters.

The writing is perfectly serviceable, though without any distinguishing characteristics. It's like those MFA bores all are. I put this down three hours ago, and already I had to look up the main characters' names: Pasquale and Dee Moray.

In 10 minutes, I won't remember either one.

That is a big pr...more
switterbug (Betsey)
After looking up various images of the 1963 movie, CLEOPATRA, the film that critically bombed but was lit up by the scandal of Liz Taylor and Richard Burton, I saw a coastline of Italy that looked exactly like the cover of this book. It is a most felicitous cover that captures the mood and time that this novel begins, in 1962. A parochial innkeeper, Pasquali Tursi, lives in a rocky coastline village called Porto Vergogna (Port of Shame), a place the size of a thumb between two mountains, and ref...more
Julie
I got a table at the Rainbow Room
I told my wife I'd be home soon
Big ships are approaching the docks
I got my hi-fi boom box
Mashed potatoes in cellophane
I see my life going down the drain
Hold me baby and don't let go
Pretty girls help to soften the blow

Palm trees; the flat broke disease
And LA has got me on my knees
I am the bluest of blues
Every day a different way to lose

The Go Getter
I'll be the Go Getter
That's my plan
That's who I am
The Go Getter
Yeah the Go Getter


The Go Getter The Black K...more
Steve
In 2006, Janet Maslin of the NY Times said, “Jess Walter is a ridiculously talented writer.” That’s been a blurb on every book he’s written since. I can see why, especially since I happen to agree. This, his most recent novel, showcases these talents well. The writing is effortless, the plot is engaging, the characters are memorable, and it’s full of fun and insight. The social commentary is awfully good, too, meaning I approve of the targets he pokes at.

The story begins in the early 1960’s in...more
Trish
A favorable review today in The New York Times said Jess Walter’s new book is like a film script, but to my way of thinking it is more like Walter as a one-man performance artist, who suddenly pulls all kinds of horns, drums, bells and other props out of his bottomless pockets to illustrate a point, to make us laugh, to break into our attention and to declare: “are we entirely mad?” His work is brilliantly interpreted and performed by Edoardo Ballerini on audio, and to hear the thick and heavy t...more
Kristilyn (Reading In Winter)
I had been hearing so many wonderful things about Jess Walters’s Beautiful Ruins that when HarperCollins Canada tweeted that they’d be having a Twitter chat for the book, I just had to pick up a copy. The idea of Italy mixed with that beautiful cover made it a pretty easy sell for me.

Of course, when I finished the book and sat down to write this review, I was stuck. The entire book was a mix of SO MANY THINGS. First of all, there’s travel, music, books, movie pitches, acting, movie stars, relati...more
Gary aka Grasshopper

Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos

Beautiful Ruins is a revelation. It contains shimmering prose and a life-affirming message. Spanning 50 years and two continents, it asks some tough questions about how to define success and happiness in our media-driven, celebrity-obsessed culture. It artfully encompasses such disparate events as the filming of Cleopatra in the 1960's and the tragedy of the Donner Party over 100 years earlier. It skewers the modern entertainment industry for its preoccupation with ratings and admonishes us t...more
CLM
Some authors can juggle intertwined characters and a disjointed assembly of characters in a way that starts making sense, allowing them to pull all the characters and plot together effortlessly at the end (Kate Atkinson, among others). I did not feel that Jess Walter had that skill; the characters did not appeal to me; and if I hadn't been reading for my book group, I probably would not have bothered to finish.
Jaclyn
A couple weeks ago a friend told me that Jess Walter's "Beautiful Ruins" was the book of the summer. I walked straight to Barnes & Noble after we finished lunch to buy it. The man at the checkout counter said that all sorts of people had been buying this book. After all, it combines Italy in the 1960s with Hollywood then and now. It deals with love, disappointed expectations, responsibilities, movie magic, tragedy - the whole gamut of human drama.

And yet, it's not love for me. There wasn't...more
Michael
I was delighted by the humor and touching sentimentality in this tale about second chances to repair broken dreams. For me, it was a fun mash-up of a madcap romantic comedy of the Hollywood type and a serious deflation of the same scenario. I would follow happily along for long stretches, confident that the characters silly troubles would be resolved by the end. Then I would get bowled over with the serious and sometimes brutal truths that emerge along the way.

At the start, the action alternate...more
john Adams
Beautiful Ruins

I bought this book because I heard the author on NPR and he was this super nerdy guy who talked like an economist and who said things like, “When you compare the decline of cultures, for example the decline of Rome or Imperial Britain, one can make a few general conclusion, such as, wealth shifts to the top and the masses are consciously placated...” etc etc. Then I heard the book was fiction and my reaction was: “Whaaatt!?! Fiction from this guy, called Beautiful Ruins, I gotta...more
Mark

I would never have suspected that a novel about a small town actress, a decrepit Italian hotel, an ambitious writer, a crass Hollywood producer and Richard Burton would have me turning to grab this book at every spare opportunity, and allow me to stretch my lunch hour without guilt to finish the book.

In the early 60s, Pasquale has taken over his family's completely out of date hotel in a village so small that tourist boats never come there -- except one day, when one does, and deposits a beautif...more
Marialyce
Wonderful, book that keeps one totally engaged from the beginning to the turning of the last page. There was not a dull or uninteresting section in the entire three hundred plus pages. I loved the intertwining of the characters and their stories as they played out their lives against the backdrop of Hollywood during the Cleopatra days of Liz Taylor and Richard Burton, to the tiny Italian town where so much of the action of the life of this book took place. The characters were wonderful, so human...more
Kate
I am not going to recommend you read this because you will judge me for it long before you tire of the written tics, redundancy, and the repeated use of characters' full names.

If you were to read this, explicitly violating my not-recommendation and expunging my role in the whole thing, the last quarter of the book might be the best, save for the last chapter which is one of those annoying scrolling summaries at the end of a film of all of the characters' happy endings. A very wrong note. The aut...more
Melki
Last week, I was dreading seeing my dental hygenist. Not just for the usual reasons - (I brush & floss 3 times a day, yet she has to scrape and scrape with her little implements, and it makes me feel like an unclean swine!) - but, because we always talk about books. I knew she would ask about what I was currently reading, and I had no clue how to describe the magic of Beautiful Ruins in between all that scraping and suctioning.

Even now when my mouth is NOT crammed full of tubes and metal hoo...more
Elaine
Dec 26, 2012 Elaine rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2012
A fast fun read that dabbles, mostly successfully, in a multitude of voices, genres and times. I found it consistently fun, if never more deeply meaningful. The book seemed to want to say something profound about love, hope, doing the right thing, and (centrally) I think, about knowing our place in life - not wanting what is more, in love or career, than we are "meant to have". (Perhaps the most profoundly Italian thing about the work). Nothing quite got to the heart level for me, I was amused o...more
Jeanette

"Isn't it enough to be out walking together in the sunlight?"

Yes. Yes indeed.

This isn't quite five-star material, but it was so touching and original and unexpectedly funny that I won't quibble over imperfections.
Diane
What a marvelous novel! I thought this would be a fun and fast read, but there were surprising depths to this book that is part historical fiction, part insider-Hollywood, part redemption and part love story.

The book opens on a tiny fishing village in Italy in 1962. An American actress comes to a small hotel to recuperate from an illness. The hotel owner, Pasquale, falls for her beauty and wants to help her. He will slowly learn her secrets and why she was sent to his village.

The flashback port...more
Afton Nelson
I loved the scenes from 1960's Porto Vergogna, Italy. I loved the characters--even self-absorbed, self destructive Richard Burton. The discussion between Pasquale and his aunt about the "whore in small bedclothes" was one of the best scenes I've read since the Diarrhea scene in "Truth in Advertising." I think the book I was hoping for would have focused just on Dee and Pasquale and 1960's Italy. While I see what the author was doing with THIS book, there were just too many side stories going on...more
Suzanne
This sounds silly, but Pasquale had me from "Hello," so to speak as he heaved rocks, a Syssiphean task, to create a tennis court for his newly acquied hotel, An Adequate View. His courtly attention to Dee Moray contrasted with Michael Deane's lack of attention and Richard Burton's childish forgetfulness and Pasquale's own cowardly treatment of his own "lover."
Pasquale's childhood friend, the drunk American Alvis Bender writer/car salesman, Shane Wheeler, an American ne'er do well writer and Pat...more
Laura Smith
Set in one of my favorite places on earth, the picturesque Ligurian Sea, this novel had me at "hello". However, the beautiful Italian coastline, romantic movie stars and unique characters couldn't hold my attention for long. I felt the main crux of the story dragged me through some pitiful relationships and characters making poor life choices over and over again. I was frustrated with them, annoyed by their self pity and self destruction. But in the end, the book turned back to its beginning glo...more
Louise
Story Description:

HarperCollins Publishers|June 4, 2012|Trade Paperback|ISBN: 978-0-06-220713-5

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, wh...more
Bette BookAddict
Mar 21, 2014 Bette BookAddict rated it 5 of 5 stars Recommends it for: Everyone should read this book
Recommended to Bette BookAddict by: Angela Always reading

Jess Walter and I have not seen eye to eye on another of his novels but after reading Beautiful Ruins, we have definitely kissed and made up. Actually, we may well be 'besties'. He may have 'beautifully ruined' me for the next dozen or so books that I read; this, his latest novel, could easily become my reading yardstick. It is thought-provoking, serious, insouciant and amusing; it strolls across your consciousness with a lazy charm. Each character is lovingly crafted; Jess Walter knows what he...more
Keith
Beautiful Ruins is an astonishing work of literary creation. A lonely Italian hotel owner has his first American guest. He catches sight of her arrival and falls deeply and hopelessly in love. It is 1962 and she is Dee Moray, an actress in the lumbering money pit that is the Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton production of Cleopatra. Dee Moray becomes the center of this novel and over five decades the novel will chart her effect on five men: Pasquale the hotelier, Alvis Bender, an American writ...more
Lydia Presley
There are not that many books out there by contemporary male authors that inspire the same feeling of nostalgia and peace I get when I finish a book by Jess Walter. He's two for two now - first with The Financial Lives of the Poets and now with Beautiful Ruins.

Beautiful Ruins may be a lovely title name for this book, but even more so it describes the absolute gorgeous nature of the story held inside the gorgeous cover. It has all the right ingredients: dying starlette, Italy, tortured Italian yo...more
Cheryl
“Se non è vero, è ben trovato. . . .” “Even if it is not true, it is well conceived."
Indeed it is.
This old Italian proverb is tucked away on the copyright page, without any translation. (“Beautiful Ruins is a work of fiction. Characters, places, and incidents are the products of the author’s imagination, and any real names or locales used in the book are used fictitiously. Se non è vero, è ben trovato. . . .”)
I saw it only on finishing the book, and it was like a final and unexpected small rewar...more
Kris Dinnison
About half-way through Beautiful Ruins, I had a moment when I felt elation as a reader paired with a tiny bit of despair as a writer. Walter's new book, out on June 12th, is a delicious read, full of both the humor and heartbreak his readers have come to expect. Set in both the early sixties and the near present (as well as a few moments in between) Beautiful Ruins tells the story of a young Italian man, Pasquale, trying to carry on his dead father's legacy by running a hotel in a tiny town on t...more
Diane S.
3.5 I had picked this up and started reading this twice before and just wasn't in the mood for it. After several wonderful reviews from my trusty goodread friends I picked it up again and this time I found it enjoyable. Never expected the sardonic humor that it held and I just absolutely adored Pasquale. He is one of those witty characters, with flaws, and oh so human that I love to read about. I did like the first part much more than the middle. In the beginning everything was being set up and...more
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Jess Walter is the author of five novels and one nonfiction book. His work has been translated into more than 20 languages and his essays, short fiction, criticism and journalism have been widely published, in Details, Playboy, Newsweek, The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, The Boston Globe among many others.

His books:
Beautiful Ruins, 2012.
The Financial Lives of the Poets, 2009.
The Zero, a...more
More about Jess Walter...
The Financial Lives of the Poets We Live in Water Citizen Vince The Zero Land of the Blind

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“Sometimes what we want to do and what we must do are not the same. Pasquo, the smaller the space between your desire and what is right, the happier you will be.” 98 likes
“A writer needs four things to achieve greatness, Pasquale: desire, disappointment, and the sea.”
“That’s only three.”
Alvis finished his wine. “You have to do disappointment twice.”
51 likes
More quotes…