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Beautiful Ruins Paperback – 30 May 2013

4.0 out of 5 stars 158 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin; 01 edition (30 May 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 067092265X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670922659
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2.2 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (158 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 27,479 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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')

About the Author

Jess Walter is the author of six novels, including The Financial Lives of the Poets, published by Penguin. Beautiful Ruins was a New York Times bestseller. Jess Walter lives in Spokane, Washington with his family.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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Format: Paperback
I ordered this book after reading a review in the Sunday Times Culture magazine hailing it as the read of the summer (2013). I started it in January 2014 and just finished it now after struggling through it for 3 months. I don't like to give up on a book, so I really had to force myself to read it 'till the end. It was so disappointing that I felt compelled to write a review on amazon for the first time ever.
Although the style of writing could be considered literary, the content of the book is a non-story, an implausible, long-winded tale involving characters we never learn to care about. This is compounded by of the structure of the book which flits from one character or period (1960s) to another (present-day) via pointless other chapters (such as excerpts of a book or screenplay being written, which have no bearing on anything). There is no chance to get into the story or the protagonists. There is no emotional involvement, no suspense, no credibility – no entertainment even. It's possibly the worst book I've ever picked up. I keep all of the books I've read on the bookshelves in my basement, but this one will go straight into the recycling bin outside…
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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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