Title: Beautiful Ruins
Author: Jess Walter
Book: Hardcover, 352 pages
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, when an elderly Italian man shows up on a movie studio's back lot—searching for the mysterious woman he last saw at his hotel decades earlier.
What unfolds is a dazzling, yet deeply human, roller coaster of a novel, spanning fifty years and nearly as many lives. From the lavish set of Cleopatra to the shabby revelry of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Walter introduces us to the tangled lives of a dozen unforgettable characters: the starstruck Italian innkeeper and his long-lost love; the heroically preserved producer who once brought them together and his idealistic young assistant; the army veteran turned fledgling novelist and the rakish Richard Burton himself, whose appetites set the whole story in motion—along with the husbands and wives, lovers and dreamers, superstars and losers, who populate their world in the decades that follow. Gloriously inventive, constantly surprising, Beautiful Ruins is a story of flawed yet fascinating people, navigating the rocky shores of their lives while clinging to their improbable dreams.
Once again, I chose a book with another beautiful cover that invites me to travel halfway across the world to hear a story. This novel is truly eye-opening and wonderful to behold; it tells two stories at once, one set in the past and one during present day featuring a colorful cast of characters. The setting of Porto Vergogna, Italy sounds like a beautiful and quaint little town set on cliffs overlooking the sea. In the 60's, it's easy to envision a beautiful actress going there to vacation. But she is not there on holiday; she has been sent there to be hidden away due to her "condition". She easily makes friends with the proprietor, Pasquale, who instantly falls in love with her beauty and naivety. He finds out what is wrong with her and who sent her away and seeks to make everything right.
In present day Hollywood, a producer is trying to salvage his career while his assistant is trying to figure out what to do with hers. A man trying to pitch a movie idea happens upon an old Italian gentleman who brings the past back to the producer and sets them all on a journey of discovery and adventure.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book from the publisher in order to create this review. The opinions expressed are of my own. Thank you to Trish at TLC Book Tours