Ed's Reviews > Beautiful Ruins

Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter
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Jun 21, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: 2012, 4-stars, read-on-kindle, italy, tournament-of-books-2013, shared-in-household
Read from June 21 to 29, 2012

It is usually a good sign if you find yourself sighing at the end of the novel. Jess Walter's Beautiful Ruins made me sigh.

I really did not know what to expect. Just one look at the gorgeous cover suggested that this would not have the razor sharpness or comic darkness of his last book The Financial Lives of Poets. Alas, there were glimpses of that in the contemporary Hollywood storyline of this novel, but it was quite clear from the onset that this multi-storyline, time-traveling (not in the sci-fi way), genre-busting work was a strong literary evolution step forward for Walter.

I admit I am sucker for a well-crafted novel. One where you wonder if all the pieces (that is, once you figure out the pieces) are going to fit together and, when if/when they do, is the end-result going to be too tidy or not tidy enough. But my spoiler of a *sigh* at the top of this review gave away my feelings that Walter squeaked in and found just the right balance between serendipity and believability (well, perhaps the fictionalization of a real-life person might have stretched the latter just a tad too far).

I would be remiss if I did not mention another character in the book: Italy. I have my own love affair for the country where a large portion of the novel takes place in flashback mode. Walter captures the country's charms and had me pining away for la dolce vita ... tho granted that is pretty much a daily occurrence regardless of the book I am reading!

There seems to a tremendous buzz about this book and while I thoroughly enjoyed it, I have to say it never got to "masterpiece" or neared 5-star slam-dunk status for me. But after the edgy boldness of Poets, the depth and subtlety and sentimentality that Walter displays in Beautiful Ruins will certainly having me reaching for his next book.
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