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Beautiful Ruins Paperback – 5 Jul 2012

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Product details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Viking; Open Market ed edition (5 July 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670922102
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670922109
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (144 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 8,149,210 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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Product Description


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') --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

About the Author

Jess Walter is the author of the National Book Award finalist The Zero and the Edgar Award-winning Citizen Vince. His previous book The Financial Lives of the Poets was published in the UK by Penguin.

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Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By S Riaz HALL OF FAMETOP 10 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 6 Sept. 2013
Format: Paperback
This is an inventive and emotional novel, set partly in 1962 Italy and partly 'recently' in the USA; where elderly Pasquale Tursi travels to Hollywood to ask famous film director Michael Deane (now so unrecognisable because of plastic surgery that visitors are urged 'not to stare')to track down an actress he first met as a young man. Pasquale had, in 1962, just inherited the wonderfully named 'The Hotel Adequate View'. Located in a tiny village, virtually unreachable except by boat, Pasquale thinks it is a mistake when beautiful American actress Dee Moray arrives to stay. Pasquale is told only that she is sick and many misunderstandings occur, until he bravely takes matters into his own hands and travels to Rome, where Moray had been filming 'Cleopatra'. The film, notorious for an out of control budget, how long it is taking to complete and cast problems has become a monster. Into this novel pour cameo performances by real life people, such as Richard Burton, as a non stop talker, who is fuelled by a constant stream of alcohol.

The novel is about a secret, covered up by the studio in a time when the internet did not exist and gossip and rumour could be controlled - or at least manipulated. It is about how that secret affected the characters as they lived their lives, of doing the right thing, and of how Hollywood works, both now and then. A funny, romantic and often sweet novel, it is a charming and enjoyable read.
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34 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Red Rock Bookworm TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 17 Aug. 2012
Format: Hardcover
Moving between 1962 and a time period designated as "recently", BEAUTIFUL RUINS by Jess Walter is a love story of sorts that begins on a little known island somewhere in the Ligurian Sea and introduces readers to a mysterious blond starlet, Dee, who becomes ill while working on the Burton/Taylor epic "Cleopatra", and a young Italian innkeeper, Pasquale, whose dreams of hostelery glory will hopefully turn his small rocky island into a vacationers dream destination. Love blooms between the two....but fate (or an unknown third party) intervenes and they are separated.

Fast forward fifty years or so to a small office space in a major studio back lot in Hollywood. Here we meet a now aging cynical movie producer, his plucky but marriage shy assistant, an aspiring writer, an aging Italian man in search of his past, and a plethora of supporting cast.

How are the lives of all of these people linked? Ah, therein lies the story......and it is a surprisingly inventive and deeply absorbing behind the scenes look back at a time when a Hollywood stars escapades and fatal flaws were concealed from public view by publicists who protected the studios assets (i.e. their stars and their productions) by spinning unfavorable stories and taking care of "problems" while ignoring how this could effect the lives of those involved.

The BEAUTIFUL RUINS of the title do not refer to the ancient buildings of the Italian coastline where our story begins but rather to the lives and facades of the people who inhabit this narrative of love, loss, long hidden secrets and love reborn. At times amusing, often profound in its insightful observations concerning human nature this is one of the must read books of 2012. 4 1/2 stars
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on 27 July 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Can I give 6 stars? I waited a long time to devour this book; it deserves your full attention to appreciate the sublety and deft changes of time & phrase. Couldn't put it down.
In 1960's Italy a disappointed young man sustains himself with big dreams of a different future, both for himself and his tiny cliff-top village. A beautiful American movie actress unexpectedly arrives to stay at Pasquale's hotel. From that point on, lives are changed forever.
Fast forward to contemporary California's movie business. Claire's life isn't where she thought she wanted it.The productions she's developing aren't the art form she got into films for and her boyfriend, though gorgeous, has a porn addiction. Then there's her surgically altered boss, whose morals are non-existant and whose murky past dealings bring the two stories together.
This is beautiful writing. The stories unfold before your eyes and switch seamlessly between characters, building towards a final crescendo where everything meets.
There's one chaacter who only actually appears in the book briefly, yet whose presence overshadows everybody's lives. Richard Burton's cameo appearance is vivid and masterly, like his later film performances. He bursts off the page, tearing through his scene in a drink fuelled passion. He is the 'beautiful ruin' of the title, squanderng his genius like so many greats. This book makes you question, though, if it is 'ruin'... what you think you want isn't always what you actually want and people touch your lives with unlooked for consequences.
Beautiful triumph!
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I read some very glowing reviews of this novel and I admired much of the writing -- the descriptions of the Italian coastline are beautiful and some of the writing about the tranquility of the area before the 60s tourist explosion is poignant. I liked the Hollywood satire too.

The movement of the narrative in place and time was intriguing at first, although there maybe was too much variety by the end -- was the author worried about holding the audience's attention? When narratives jump around in this way, the author needs to take care not to be too cynical about withholding details from the reader purely to sustain suspense and there are instances in this novel where the narrative is a bit tricksy.

I enjoyed the book most before a point about two thirds of the way through when a revelation in the plot was revealed and the book then seemed to lose momentum -- performing a few literary hoops and turns before the denouement. And while the very ending was poignant and fitting, the 'what happened next to whom' section seemed designed to remind the reader of the author's self-regarding skill for having introduced so many characters along the way (from US GIs to failed rock singers to real film stars).

I guess it's an impressive exercise in seeing what can be spun out of a chance encounter that only lasted a few days but was remembered for a lifetime but I'd rather have seen more concentration on the relationship between the two protagonists. But the writing was exhilarating in parts so four stars.
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