Genre: Adult Historical Fiction
Pub. Date: June 12, 2012
My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Goodreads says, "The story begins in 1962. On a rocky patch of the sun-drenched Italian coastline, a young innkeeper, chest-deep in daydreams, looks on 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."
Dee Moray, a Hollywood actress, is filming Cleopatra and the year is 1962. During filming, she becomes very sick and the studio sends her to a no-name Italian seaside town (nothing like glamourous Positano or Sorrento) and while there she befriends the the owner of the hotel she is staying out. Pasquale is immediately entranced by Dee, but comes to find that she is dying. However, the story doesn't just focus on just Pasquale and Dee. There's also a producer, his assistant, an aspiring Hollywood screenwriter, and an alcoholic war veteran who comes to Pasquale's hotel every year to write. Somehow Jess Walter weaves the plots and subplots of Beautiful Ruins dazzlingly and all the characters' stories intertwine seamlessly.
- "Sometimes what we want to do and what we must do are not the same. Pasquo, the smaller the space between your desire and what is right, the happier you will be.”
- “His life was two lives now: the life he would have and the life he would forever wonder about.”
- “A writer needs four things to achieve greatness, Pasquale: desire, disappointment, and the sea.”
“That’s only three.” Alvis finished his wine. “You have to do disappointment twice.”
- “I think so, too. I know I felt that way. For years. It was as if I was a character in a movie and the real action was about to start at any minute. But I think some people wait forever, and only at the end of their lives do they realize that their life has happened while they were waiting for it to start.”
- "Stories are people. I'm a story, you're a story . . . your father is a story. Our stories go in every direction, but sometimes, if we're lucky, our stories join into one, and for a while, we're less alone.”