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Beautiful Ruins [Kindle Edition]

Jess Walter
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2,397 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $15.99
Kindle Price: $8.99
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Sold by: HarperCollins Publishers
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Book Description

The acclaimed, award-winning author of the national bestseller The Financial Lives of the Poets returns with his  funniest, most romantic, and most purely enjoyable novel yet: the story of an almost-love affair that begins on the Italian coast in 1962 . . . and is rekindled in Hollywood fifty years later.  

“Why mince words? Beautiful Ruins is an absolute masterpiece.” —Richard Russo

“A ridiculously talented writer.” —New York Times

Editorial Reviews Review

Adriana Trigiani Reviews Beautiful Ruins

Adriana Trigiani

Beautiful Ruinsis a glorious read for book lovers. From the moment you pick up the novel, it conjures a world that you long to enter. The teal-blue Ligurian Sea laps against a jagged coastline filled with candy-colored houses and open windows. At first glance, you’re dying to get inside those houses and find out what’s going on.

You needn’t worry. Jess Walter has written a sumptuous epic about the real people who make art, spinning illusion for fun, profit, and meaning. There are screen actors, a novelist, and Pasquale, an innkeeper, who keeps his patrons fed and watered on homemade wine and dreams. Among all the shimmer and hope are the lost souls who long to create something, anything. And just as Jess Walter introduces us to these characters, he follows them for fifty years. The journey will delight and captivate you.

You will be crushed when the novelist, Alvis, tracks down a woman whom he believed saved him in his youth, only to take a long walk down a dark hallway into a room where everything he believes and all his hopes shatter in one exchange. Jess Walter can break your heart in one conversation.

If you love the ancient charms of the Italian coast on the Ligurian Sea, if you long for Edinburgh and its cold rain and distant hot sun, and if you love stories of the dream factory that is Hollywood, you will not be able to part from this book until you are finished reading it. Even then, for months afterward, you’ll keep it close so you can reread a passage here and there that moved you.

It’s all here, the illusion and reality, the joy and the shame of the creative life, of life itself. The ingenue Dee, the producer Michael, and the D-girl Claire take you into the world of making movies, the expectations and disappointments, and in an ingenious turn, the author pins the hem of the action with real Hollywood stars, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, who are engaging in a drama of their own in Rome.

Jess Walter has quietly and expertly built a career over six novels that puts him at the forefront of great American writers. Beautiful Ruins is the emerald among the pearls.


Just about the perfect summer read. It is intelligent and thought-provoking, but also a lot of fun. Reading hours fly by and reaching the final page feels like a genuine wrench Sunday Times Ambitious, large-hearted, exhilarating novel that leaves you wanting more ... Very, very funny The Times Beautiful Ruins is a novel unlike any other you're likely to read this year -- Nick Hornby Romantic, very funny...Turbo-charged satire meets a Garcia Marquezesque love story. What's not to like? Daily Mail Walter creates an epic here - one that took him 15 years to write. The end result, however, is well worth the wait Observer A sparkling summer read Telegraph Thoroughly enjoyable, a tender, funny, ridiculous tale which has love at its core and a keen satirical edge to cut through the lovely, lush romanticism Sunday Express You're going to love this book New York Times Book Review A brilliant, madcap meditation on fate Kirkus Reviews A novel shot in sparkly Technicolor Booklist The beach read of the summer Vogue Hilarious and compelling Esquire Magic. Walter is a believer in capricious destiny with a fine, freewheeling sense of humour ... A monument to crazy love with a deeply romantic heart New York Times Poignant, comical and marvellous San Francisco Chronicle Larger-than-life characters, billowy romance and crafty satire ... Any book that includes Richard Burton as a character is fine by us Esquire Cinematic and utterly romantic ... the big beach read for summer Sunday Times My absolute favourite read this year -- Nick Curtis Evening Standard 'Books of the Year' A bravura feat -- Peter Kemp Sunday Times 'Books of the Year' The beach read of 2013 Grazia 'Books of the Year' Think Il Postino with a walk-on part for a comically drunk Richard Burton -- Peter Brookes The Times 'Books of the Year' Walter's account of the filming of the Burton/Taylor classic Cleopatra is a playful imagining of emotional history and hidden lives just out of view. Be warned, this is a novel that may make any festive guests somewhat anti-social as I read it in two days flat -- Olivia Cole GQ 'Books of the Year'

Product Details

  • File Size: 1216 KB
  • Print Length: 354 pages
  • Publisher: Harper; Reprint edition (June 12, 2012)
  • Sold by: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B006NZDO40
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,104 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
484 of 518 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This will be on my Best of the Year list March 25, 2012
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Brief summary and review, no spoilers.

This story is told in chapters that go back and forth in time, starting in 1962 in a little Italian coastal town named Porto Vergogna (Port Shame.) Here we are introduced to a young man named Pasquel who's family owns the only small hotel in the village, the name of which translates to The Hotel Adequate View. Pasquale has big plans to make his village competitive with the successful coastal communities nearby and attract more tourists. The only American tourist who has visited the hotel before is a man named Alvis Bender, who comes every year for two weeks to work on a book - a book for which he has only written one chapter.

But when a young beautiful actress named Dee Moray arrives to stay at The Hotel Adequate View, everything changes. As the book progresses we find out what happened to these characters over time and how their lives and the lives of so many others were changed as well.

The other main characters include Claire Silver, a young, impassioned but disillusioned development assistant for a man named Michael Deane, who is an older and successful and legendary film producer. We also meet a young man named Shane Wheeler who wants to make a pitch about a movie about the Donner Party. Add to the mix an incredibly amusing and odd cast of characters both from the past and present. And did I mention Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor?

I don't want to give away any more of the plot because it's such a joy to read this book to find out what happens next and how it all comes together. It's not just that this book is compelling and entertaining, it's also a mirror that reflects our culture and the way we think and live.
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576 of 638 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Just Not My Cuppa April 4, 2012
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Sometimes one clicks with a book, and other times...well, for me this was one of the other times. About half way through I realized that I really didn't care about the cast of a thousand characters, and was distracted by the fact that the locale shifted with every chapter -- one chapter is in Hollywood in the present and in next chapter one is back in Italy in 1962. For me, there were too many characters and too many storylines. Others may not have an issue with my issues, but those are the reasons I finally set the book aside. The book also shifts from present to past tense almost with each chapter, which seems to be more and more common in current literature to the point where some consider it a fad. Fortunately, Jess Walter did not overdo the use of present tense and it ceased to be a distraction for me.

I did like the character of Pasquale, and had the book been his story alone I would have found the book enchanting. The chapters set in Italy were in my opinion the best parts of the book (at least the book as far as I read it). The author has a good feel for the locale and I found myself skimming the sections set in Hollywood to get back to Italy. Richard Burton put in a cameo appearance, and it didn't do much to dispell his image as a heavy drinker, which is probably accurate (certainly it is the way I remember him as being depicted at the time). I suspect this book will find its proper audience -- the reviews so far have been quite glowing. The fact that it didn't appeal to one particular reader is not the fault of the author -- it is just a fact of life that not every book is going to appeal to everyone.
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159 of 178 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars And yet it eludes us completely April 16, 2012
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
The "beautiful ruins" of this affecting story include not only its physical setting, in a tiny coastal village destined for extinction (Porto Vergogna or the Port of Shame), but also the larger than life characters, including a "real" Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, who appear as supporting actors to the main story of the more ordinary cast: the arrestingly beautiful blonde starlet Dee Moray and the young innkeeper who falls for her, Pasquale Tursi, and many many other memorable characters, their children, their friends, their colleagues.

The novel moves back and forth in time between 1962 and a somewhat vaguely defined "recently." The juxtaposition made possible by this slippage in time serves to remind the reader that all things beautiful eventually become ruins and that many ruins (conversely) were once things of beauty. That double-focus is the source of much of the book's poignancy. The novel's many other, mostly youthful comic characters, associated with its second setting in contemporary Hollywood, do help to balance the book's almost unbearable sadness and lend it a sense of the future that keep it from tipping into tragedy. One character, the "dead-gazed" geriatric Michael Deane, miracle of plastic surgery, tells the haunting cautionary tale of what happens if one rejects the embrace of time.

The result is a beautifully composed, highly entertaining philosophical novel, tightly unified despite its wide-ranging plot. I think the point of the final (title) chapter, which attempts to wrap up all the loose ends, is that, despite the pleasure such storytelling brings, it is finally impossible to harmonize all the notes, to make public all the private losses and gains.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
A great easy read.
Published 1 day ago by EM
4.0 out of 5 stars A 3 star that turned into a 4 star
I got frustrated with this book switching to so many different characters, but the end brought them all together well. Read more
Published 1 day ago by Mindy Covington
4.0 out of 5 stars a true picture of life
This story touched a part of me that understands that life is moments of love, whether real or perceived---or both. It's humaneness was powerful.
Published 2 days ago by hank. : )
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Great story.
Published 5 days ago by mark mellon
5.0 out of 5 stars I picked up a copy of Beautiful Ruins at Powell's Book Store in the...
I picked up a copy of Beautiful Ruins at Powell's Book Store in the Portland airport, where it was rated as their customers' top pick. Read more
Published 8 days ago by Amazon Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars A Good Read
This book was recommended by a friend and it did not disappoint. Interesting story with some unexpected turns and plot lines. Characters were well developed and believable. Read more
Published 9 days ago by Helen
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
A beautiful book!
Published 9 days ago by jackie jackson
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful Story
This book simply drew me in to the lives of a group of fascinating people. Jess Walter created characters with individual voices, problems, joys, and challenges. Read more
Published 10 days ago by mmorga2
1.0 out of 5 stars Something about the writers style was hard to enjoy.
The story was potentially interesting, but I struggled to finish this book. Something about the writers style was hard to enjoy.
Published 10 days ago by Moira J van Gessel
5.0 out of 5 stars extraordinary!
I do not typically read what I shall call a love story but this magnificently written work drew me right in and held my interest through the final word. A true joy to read.
Published 11 days ago by Patrick Valentine
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More About the Author

Jess Walter is the author of six novels, most recently the New York Times bestseller Beautiful Ruins (2012). He was a finalist for the 2006 National Book Award for The Zero and winner of the 2005 Edgar Allan Poe Award for best novel for Citizen Vince. His short fiction and essays have appeared in Harper's, McSweeney's, Playboy and other publications. He lives in his hometown of Spokane, Washington.

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