Darrenglass's Reviews > Beautiful Ruins

Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter
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M_50x66
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Jul 17, 12


What a great novel.

As fans of Walter's previous novels know, he is a writer who can be funny and can be suspenseful and can be tragic and can be romantic. And in BEAUTIFUL RUINS, he is at the top of his game in all of these categories. Parts of the book are a great Hollywood novel about producers and reality television and the like, just over-the-top enough to be funny while still keeping the characters very authentic feeling. Other stretches of the novel are set in Italy in the 1960's. And then there is the excerpt from a war novel within the novel. And the chapter about the Donner Party. And a stretch at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival -- yes, the book is almost as ambitious in its range of geography as it is in its range of tones.

(As a side note, I happened to see the new Woody Allen film, TO ROME WITH LOVE, while in the middle of this book, and they make for interesting counterpoints to each other, with very different takes on some of the same themes and the Italian locale. In any event, I am dying to get back to Italy now)

In short, I thought this book was a perfect summer read -- light and fast-paced enough to keep the pages turning but tackling big enough themes to not feel lightweight. I'm not sure if it will be lofty enough for awards like the National Book Award, but it is my early favorite to win the Rooster in next year's Tournament of Books. I highly recommend it and cannot wait to see what Walter does next.
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