Review: Beautiful Ruins
Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter
From the cover:
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.
Let me just start by saying that I absolutely love and adore Jess Walter. From the opening lines of The Financial Lives of the Poets, I knew I was madly in love with this man – er rather his writing. And he has yet to fail me. The first book I read in 2012 was Citizen Vince and I knew after I finished reading it that it would end up on my best of list. Half way through the year and it still remains one of my favorite books. It just stands out above the rest. And I’ve already passed on my copy of that book to a friend to read. Speaking of which, he hasn’t read it yet, but his girlfriend has and she said she really liked it! That’s my goal here, trying to convert people into Jess Walter lovers, one person at a time. But I digress. Let’s get back to what this should be about, Beautiful Ruins.
Beautiful Ruins follows in line with its predecessors and once again I’m literally blown away by how amazing and incredible the story Jess Walter has created for us. His writing makes me speechless and I don’t even know how to start describing his true knack for the English language and for writing. It amazes me how he uses the same words that we all do, but he just arranges them in a way that allows him to craft such a wonderful and beautiful story that leaves me speechless and stunned. I’ve finished this book a week ago and since then I haven’t been able to pick up another book. I just keep thinking about this one over and over. Even after letting this book simmer for a week, I still have no idea how to review it; how to put the masterpiece Jess Walter has created into words.
If you’re looking for a character driven novel, then Beautiful Ruins is the book you need to pick up. We run into a vast variety of characters in this book with a cameo from Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor so it’s a little difficult to get into everyone’s storyline plus I don’t want to give too much away because I so want y’all to read this one! Despite the characters coming from different generations and different parts of the world, the characters are all linked and interconnected. Their actions affect each other and as we move back and forth between time and between one place to another, everything slowly unravels into this beautiful story about life and the beautiful ruins of life. Typically a book that is composed of stories that move back and forth between the past and the present, a movie pitch, a memoir, a manuscript, and a playwright may come off as confusing, but Jess Walter is a genius and everything comes together wonderfully. The stories are connected to one another and it just pulls you along on this journey with the characters as they realize their shortcomings and discover happiness despite the imperfections.
The characters are vastly different from one another, but they have one thing in common: they’re all so very flawed and yet their flaws actually make the book what it is. What really makes this book incredible is that you know these characters. You see them everyday in the people you meet, you might even see a bit of yourself in them. And yes they’re flawed, but they’re also just people trying to figure it out, figuring out life, and discover happiness. Because let’s face it, that’s what we’re all looking for right?
Beautiful Ruins. I honestly don’t know what to say about this book. This is one novel that I highly recommend. I think there is something for everyone in this novel, whether this is the type of book you normally read or not. Some authors are hit and miss, but Jess Walter is on target each and every time. You can pick up any of his novels and I think you’ll be blown away by his writing.