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Beautiful Ruins

3.68  ·  Rating details ·  170,609 ratings  ·  16,358 reviews
"The best novel of the year." — Maureen Corrigan, NPR's Fresh Air

A #1 New York Times bestseller, this “absolute masterpiece” (Richard Russo) is the story of an almost-love affair that begins on the Italian coast in 1962 and resurfaces fifty years later in Hollywood. From the lavish set of Cleopatra to the shabby revelry of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival to the back lots of
Hardcover, 337 pages
Published June 12th 2012 by Harper
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Angel 'ine A pleasant Surprise! This book had a slower start than what i was used to but the story built up , took pace and blossomed into a beautiful finale. I …moreA pleasant Surprise! This book had a slower start than what i was used to but the story built up , took pace and blossomed into a beautiful finale. I have read many books with parallel/multiple story-lines but this one stood out in the sense that it was COMPLETE. Yup... no loose ends there to leave you wondering "what the heck happened or am i suppose to rely on my imagination?" Loved how the book leaves you with a sense absolute completion. All questions answered, all that you wondered about through the entire read will be revealed. Not exaggerated or over-hyped but a simple reality based story line. Very believable indeed.

In all an enjoyable read that leaves you with a lingering sweet after taste.(less)
Tammie Melear I loved Beautiful Ruins. It is not a book about travel. It is mostly a love story, beautifully written, with rich characters, humor and depth. I will …moreI loved Beautiful Ruins. It is not a book about travel. It is mostly a love story, beautifully written, with rich characters, humor and depth. I will remember it as one of my favorites, and will quickly find another book by Jess Walter. I am now a fan.

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Average rating 3.68  · 
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 ·  170,609 ratings  ·  16,358 reviews

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Diane Yannick
Jan 23, 2013 rated it it was ok
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
Oct 30, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Richard Derus
Aug 02, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: pearl-ruled
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
Mar 09, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Heart-Stabbing Elaboration of Beauty

I kept this book on my shelf untouched for nearly 4 years after I couldn't make it past page 20. In April, with the spring weather, I decided to dust off its pretty jacket and read it. So many have reviewed this novel in the time since I bought this that I doubt many will even read this review. But ... I just feel compelled to add...

I was wowed, nearly speechless by the adductively alluring setting, ruins welling within me even now, months after my farewe
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
switterbug (Betsey)
Mar 28, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Ahmad Sharabiani
Beautiful Ruins, Jess Walter

Beautiful Ruins is a novel by Jess Walter, first published in 2012. The novel is a social satire which explores human nature and satirizing the Hollywood culture, that is at the center of the novel. Similarly, the novel includes significant leaps of time, and geography, with much of the early parts of the novel, set in an Italian coastal hotel, but later parts are set in Hollywood; Edinburgh; Seattle; Florence, Italy; Portland, Ore.; Truckee, Calif.; and Sandpoint, Id
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. ...more
Feb 21, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Jun 12, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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 hooks..
B the BookAddict

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
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
Aug 13, 2016 rated it liked it
3.5 Stars

This is the type of book that determines your next vacation.

Sometimes its not the plot that makes a book memorable but beautiful descriptions of a place and it's inhabitants that can charm and dazzle the reader.

A story of greed, treachery and romance set on a rocky patch of Italian coastline in 1962.

The stroy is told in chapters that go back and forth in time and I was lucky enough to have been given a copy of this as a kris Kringle bookclub gift and I had it on audible as well. The
Nov 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Nicole R
I respectfully disagree with everyone who thinks this is a unique and phenomenal book. It is horrible, seriously horrible. I got 50% of the way through before I realized that this book was degrading my quality of life. This is only the third book in my entire life I have given up on, and I wish I would have never even picked it up.

I truly liked the premise! A beautiful American finds herself on an isolated Italian island in the 1960's. There is one hotel - The Adequate View - nestled in the shar
Andy Marr
May 25, 2020 rated it liked it
The premise of this book was excellent, but the characters were incredibly stereotyped and the plot was an absolute mess.

Also, I don't know why Walters had to call Richard Burton 'Richard Burton' throughout the book. There was only one character called Richard, so there was no need to hammer home the surname quite like he did. It sounds like a minor issue but, truly, you'll see what I mean if you read the book.

I wouldn't, though, if I were you.
Jul 17, 2012 rated it it was ok
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
Kelly (and the Book Boar)
Find all of my reviews at:

Beautiful Ruins was the third book in my library Winter Reading Challenge. I don't know wtf is going on, but I'm having a hell of a time finding a winner. Curse you, library!!!!

Commercial Photography

Nah, not really. In all seriousness, if I weren't such a voracious reader I would have been able to find plenty of good books on the recommendation list . . . but since I've already read Eleanor & Park and The Lover's Dictionary and High Fidelity, etc., etc.
Gary  the Bookworm
Nov 17, 2012 rated it really liked it

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 u
Jun 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Jul 27, 2012 rated it liked it
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 that
Julie G ("Doctor, my eyes!"  Offline for a week)
The cover makes it look like a schmaltzy mid-1940s romance novel, a review on the back dubs it a "beach read."

No, no, no, no, no.

I have no idea of this book's promotion or reception at its publication in 2012, but, I can tell you, it was not given enough attention.

A few bits and pieces of messy plot lines and some failure to create full-bodied characters of all the key players keep me from giving it a full five star review, but, believe me, it comes close.

This is a page turner, filled with the g
Jennifer Masterson
Nov 16, 2014 rated it it was ok
I know I'm in the minority here and late for the party but I didn't like Beautiful Ruins. I actually couldn't finish it. I found it boring and I didn't like any of the characters. ...more
john Adams
Oct 27, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviewed
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
Aug 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
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
Jeanette (Ms. Feisty)

"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.
Marialyce (absltmom, yaya)
Mar 27, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: march-2013
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
Diane S ☔
Oct 16, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: roadrallyteamb
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
Lisa Vegan
I read this book for my real world book club. The book was on my to read shelf but I wasn’t feeling enthusiastic about reading it and might not have read it if not for my book club choosing it. I doubt I would have read it/kept at it if not for my book club, but I did like it. As I was reading I enjoyed it but between times I didn’t feel inclined to pick it up and continue reading. I did want to finish it but it was slow going for me.

I did crack up at the first chapter and “The Hotel Adequate Vi
Violet wells
You can’t always get what you want but if you try sometimes…
The characters in Beautiful Ruins have unrealistic dreams. A satirised Hollywood hovers over the novel. Hollywood the crucible of unrealistic dreams. Base metal to stardust. So we’ve got the theme worked out. Not difficult as it’s announced repeatedly by the characters. Problem number one. One of the exciting elements of reading a good novel is the archaeological challenge it sets the reader of sifting through the top soil of the text t
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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.

Walter also writes screenplays and was the co-author of Christopher Darden’s 1996 b

Articles featuring this book

Here at Goodreads World Headquarters, we humbly endeavor to provide readers with book lists that will be useful, or interesting, or at least...
380 likes · 78 comments
“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.” 188 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.”
More quotes…