Beautiful Ruins Beautiful Ruins discussion


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Wonderful book, don't you think?

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Matthew Ng Just finished the book and all I could say was, wow! Don't you find the love story wonderful? Set in tumultuous times, with an equally complex web of relationships, the love held true to the end. Make me feel like "Bridges over Madison County". Any thoughts?


Lori Baldi This was a huge surprise to me and I don't know why. Maybe because the author is new to me. I do have a history of enjoying books with multiple points of view. And I have a real urge to read about Italy since I'm leaving soon for my 1st TRIP TO ITALY! I found the writing to be magical.


Jennifer I had a wonderful time reading this book. I was really savoring it and didn't want it to end. Loved the character development and bringing real-life actors into a novel. Coincidentally I received a shipment of pre-1960 movies from my late uncle while reading this book. Movies will never be like that again.


Cindy I loved this book also. I liked how the author really emphasized how the characters impacted each other's lives. Not to mention I love films made before the 70's.


Carolyn Cates Favorite book of the year! Big cast of colorful characters in several initially contrasting stories, all artfully woven together to create a story you can't forget. 'Beautiful WRITING' could have been the title!


Deon Stonehouse Yes! I agree with Richard Russo: "An Absolute Masterpiece". It is one of my top picks ot the year.


Pump I'm flummoxed as whether to try this novel. It shows up on many well-respected best-of-2012 lists, but a couple of reviewers compare it to Jennifer Egan's Goon Squad, which I found to be pretentious and boring. Any thoughts from those who have read both?


Dennis Royer I just named Beautiful Ruins as my 2012 Novel of the Year. Check out my goodreads blog entry where I explain why I feel that way.


Deon Stonehouse Beautiful Ruins is completely different than The Goon Squad; different writing style, different character development, different story.


Karen Wow! 5 stars! What a ride... what a wonderful book! I loved it! I felt like I was at Porto Vergogna, staying at the Hotel Adequate View, walking the trails, sitting in the bunker/pill box, admiring the view and artwork, riding in the boats, feeling the ocean spray. Walter sure has a way with words. The writing style was different and I liked it. The characters were random, fictional and real, and very believeable. This was a thought provoking, profound book, in which I laughed and cried and one that I will always remember.


message 11: by Kirsten (last edited Mar 25, 2013 09:13AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kirsten Mortensen Loved this book. Walter is my author hero: this is a great example of how a book can be beautifully written (in literary terms) but at the same time remain very accessible. He's a story teller.

And to cap it off, his other novels are very good as well, but also very different. Financial Lives of Poets is comedy (guy next to me on the plane finally had to ask WHAT I was reading because I was laughing so much). Zero is the story of a guy who was at ground zero on 9/11. He keeps having black outs -- and little by little begins to believe that when he's "not there" he's living a second (and possibly sinister) life. So more along the lines of psychological suspense maybe? I've got Citizen Vince at the top of my TBR pile, and Walter's new collection of short stories will be my next purchase . ..


Stanci Thanks for your post, Karen! I loved Beautiful Ruins, just finished it last week or so. First time I had read this author, but because of your post I'll put his other books on my list. Thanks!


message 13: by Ange (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ange It was difficult for me to get into, but once I did, it was difficult to put down. Beautifully written...


Kathleen Blue I really enjoyed the whole of this book! Great story. Wonderful characters and interwoven plot. Filled with perfect poignant moments.


message 15: by Sean (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sean Gosh I just loved this book! I feel like the world had been keeping the genius of Jess Wlater a secret from me and now I must read everything by him. It was one of those rare books that was smart and throughly entertaining. Simply terrific.


message 16: by Kimberly (last edited Apr 11, 2013 02:43PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kimberly Pump wrote: "I'm flummoxed as whether to try this novel. It shows up on many well-respected best-of-2012 lists, but a couple of reviewers compare it to Jennifer Egan's Goon Squad, which I found to be pretentiou..."

I didn't find Beautiful Ruins at all pretentious, and there wasn't a single power point presentation anywhere. I think the comparison refers to the use of several styles throughout the novel and not the tone.


Gulf Coast This was an Audible listen for me and it was GREAT!!


message 18: by Jean (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jean Gobel Finished this book last week, and thoroughly enjoyed it. Posted my review on GR, gave it four stars. And, yes, I will probably look for his other books.


Kirsten Mortensen @Jean, I haven't been disappointed by anything he's written!


Barbara Deon wrote: "Yes! I agree with Richard Russo: "An Absolute Masterpiece". It is one of my top picks ot the year."
although there were many threads to the plot line, I reallly didnt think it was much like the Goon Squad- well worth reading!


Susan Zinner I know a lot of people liked this, but I thought it was fluffy and just not serious literature at all. Prefer more thoughtful novels, I guess. (However, lots of critics and friends disagreed with me!)


Johanna This novel truly is a literary masterpiece! Wonderful imagery, figurative language, syntax structures....this coming from an English instructor.


Kirsten Mortensen @Susan, you bring up an interesting point -- and what's more, it may be that Walter isn't trying to write serious literature per se.

To me, that's what makes him so interesting. He didn't come up through a Creative Writing MA program -- he hasn't been "academically trained."

The now-defunct blog 2Blowhards used to mull the divide between high literature and popular literature (see here http://www.2blowhards.com/archives/20... for example) -- the bloggers proposed that so-called literary fiction is a product of college creative writing communities that sprang up in the 1960s and 70s and have been grooming writers to produce a certain kind of novel ever since.

The implication being that today, our expectations about what constitutes serious literature is shaped largely by what those writers publish.

Compare that to, say, epic poetry. We study the Iliad and Beowulf as serious literature, but maybe to contemporaries, the experience of hearing epic poems recited was closer to our experience today when we watch HBO movies . . .

And you get things like how Shakespeare's plays were staged in a part of London that was relegated to strictly lowbrow entertainment (bear baiting etc.). Our first instinct -- because we think of WS as serious literature -- is to assume the Globe provided a venue for literary giants to bring their work to the benighted masses -- but is that what was really happening . . .

Maybe the reverse is true. Maybe when his players put on private stagings of Shakespeare's work for royalty, it was a way to bring the latest pop hits to the Queen and her courtiers without them having to go to the bad part of town in person O_o

So right up into the 20th Century, there wasn't a line drawn between serious and popular literature. There were writers who were popular and awful (e.g. the hugely popular turn of the 20th century writer Mrs. Southworth) and writers who were popular and terrific. We think of the writers in the latter category as the ones doing serious literature, and no doubt many of them were ambitious about how their books would be received by intellectuals, but they were also trying to be successful, i.e. win large readerships. And to do that, they had to be both accessible and entertaining.

To me, that's what Walter achieves. He's accessible and entertaining. But he also has the hallmarks of a great writer: his mastery of the craft; his sensitivity to the nuances of the human heart and soul; and his willingness to tackle "big" themes (Beautiful Ruins, exploring how life ravages our dreams, yet somehow some of us find redemption in the end).

I know other people who reacted as you did! I recommended BR to one person who couldn't even finish it. I don't think he got more than about 40 pages in. He read the opening scene as a heavy-handed allusion to Bottecelli's Venus for example -- it didn't work for him at all. OTOH when I told him later about how Walter wove in themes of ruins and redemption, my friend began to wonder if he'd written the book off too quickly . . .

Anyway. It will be interesting to see if Walter's commercial success will pave the way for writers to try to re-define what it means to be a "great" writer . . . I've got a clipping from I think the NYT Magazine, from the 1990s, that says that the readership for serious literature in the US numbers a few thousand people at most. It's exciting to me to think that it's possible to wrap "serious literature" ("quality fiction"?) in a story that is also accessible and entertaining, and therefore is read by tens or hundreds of thousands of people . . . heck, it just crossed my mind the other day that the reason the novella Wool by Hugh Howey is so gripping is that it's about our hopes & fears regarding the afterlife: whether when we die we awake in heaven, or whether death is just a brief period of intense physical and spiritual anguish followed by the snuffing of consciousness and the rotting of the body. But you don't *know* that's what the book is about -- you think you're reading dystopian scifi, you experience it on that level, the level of entertainment . . .


Susan Zinner Kirsten wrote: "@Susan, you bring up an interesting point -- and what's more, it may be that Walter isn't trying to write serious literature per se.

To me, that's what makes him so interesting. He didn't come up..."


Kirsten, I think you misunderstood me. I'm not a literary snob and love a good story, great literature or not, as much as anyone else. I certainly mix up my reading with the classics and the less-than-classics and enjoy them both. My point was that I don't feel that this was even good writing (much less great literature). I thought it was trite and shallow. Obviously, I'm in the minority here, but I just wanted to make my position clear. I finished it, but I thought it was badly-executed.


Kirsten Mortensen Oh, please don't think I consider you snobby! That wasn't my intent. Although you are right, I wasn't exactly clear on your reaction to the book.

Kudos for you to jump on a thread that's slanted toward admirers and say you didn't care for the book! :-)


Susan Zinner Brave or foolish? Not sure which! :)


Kathy James Pump wrote: "I'm flummoxed as whether to try this novel. It shows up on many well-respected best-of-2012 lists, but a couple of reviewers compare it to Jennifer Egan's Goon Squad, which I found to be pretentiou..."

They are actually both very different books. Goon Squad is vigntettes which are connected. Beautiful Ruins is more of a narrative connected over time and place. They are both great books!


Karana On the top ten of favorite books of all time! I'll read it again at some point. Beautiful story! Jess Walter is a master storyteller.


Anita A work of Post Modern Fiction that does it well.
We read this for book club and I really enjoyed the story. I have been to the Cinque Terra which obviously stands in for Porto Vergogna, and as an Italian I believe Walter nailed the personality of the people and place.
Our group was fairly evenly split by those either loved, loathed, were indifferent or quit it. I loved it.


message 30: by Lisa (new) - rated it 2 stars

Lisa I am befuddled by all of the 5 star ratings. The first chapter was great and then it went downhill. I did not care about Michael Deane and Claire at all. The characters were so boring (except Pasquale) that I did not care what happened to them. The disparaging characterization of Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor seemed contrived and uncomfortable. It reminded me of the trashy supermarket tabloids. I listened to this as an audio book and Edoardo Ballerini's performance was suburb. Otherwise, I would not have bothered finishing the book. He was funny, fluent in Italian and easily switched voices for the different characters.


message 31: by Sara (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sara Pump wrote: "I'm flummoxed as whether to try this novel. It shows up on many well-respected best-of-2012 lists, but a couple of reviewers compare it to Jennifer Egan's Goon Squad, which I found to be pretentiou..."

Hated Goon Squad, LOVED Beautiful Ruins. Actually, I hated the second half of Goon Squad and thought the first half was pretty good. This is a complicated weave of a plot that never, ever gets confusing. I adored this book.


message 32: by Ruth (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ruth Lunn I think it can be quite difficult to pull together multiple narrative strands into a coherent book - the result is often bitty and unsatisfactory. That Jess Walter manages to combine the different threads so successfully is testament to his talent.


Nancy I totally loved this book! It made me laugh, it made me cry...and this is not easy. Can't wait to read more of Jess Walters!


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