Author: Jess Walter
Publisher: Harper Perennial
Publication Year: 2013
The #1 New York Times bestseller, now available in paperback—Jess Walter’s “absolute masterpiece” (Richard Russo, Pulitzer Prize-winning author): the story of an almost-love affair that begins on the Italian coast in 1962 and resurfaces fifty years later in contemporary Hollywood.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. Hailed by critics and loved by readers of literary and historical fiction, Beautiful Ruins is the story of an almost-love affair that begins on the Italian coast in 1962...and is rekindled in Hollywood fifty years later.
First of all, can we take a moment and appreciate the gorgeous cover. It’s even more beautiful in person because it has gloss finish and has a glittery look. Yes, I bought this book based on the cover only. I didn’t know about the story at all. All I know was what’s written on the back cover, which is not much.
Beautiful Ruins is a book with layered story. In the first chapter, we meet Pasquale, a young Italian man who managed a small hotel in a small village called Porto Vergogna, Italy. The village is isolated and small that not many people visit the place. It’s 1962 and an American actress was coming with a boat to stay in Pasquale’s little hotel. Then the next chapter is set in present time in Hollywood. We follow a woman named Claire, who works as a chief development assistant for the legendary film producer Michael Deane. Basically, there are many characters in this book. At first, it may seem overwhelming, but each has an important role in the story and each character’s story will intertwine and come together in the end.
This book has many characters. We’ve established that. Usually, books with many characters tend to accentuate certain characters and overlook other characters that actually have potential. I think the author did a good job at giving each character role in the right proportion. You can’t take a character out because each character is connected to each other in a way. This book shows how your life and your decision can affect other people’s lives, even in the littlest and simplest thing.
This book is so dense. It’s filled with so many words, and so many sentences. It’s a bit exhausting to read. Aside of the chapters with the usual narratives, we also get chapters that are written entirely in movie script or book draft form. Those are the chapters that I don’t enjoy reading. They serve a purpose in the book, but I find them boring. I tend to skim them.
I love the setting of this book, the Italy part. I could care less about Hollywood. I’m kind of obsessed with Italy. To finally read a story that is set in Italy makes me happy. The description of Pasquale’s hotel makes you imagine the quiet coastal part of Italy. Although the truth about his village is sad and depressing, because the population of the village is small and consist of old people. I still love this part of the book.
Since there are many characters and subplots, maybe the author thought that there’s a need to wrap everything up. Well, it’s nice to get a closure of each character. Unfortunately, it happened and compacted into one last chapter. Because of this, the ending feels rushed and exhausting because too much is going on. It feels like one character’s life is summarized in one paragraph. There literally is a paragraph that covers two pages of the book, it’s crazy.
I think I kind of have a love-hate relationship with this book. At times I enjoyed reading this book, other times I feel bored and skim read some chapters. It took me a while than usual to read a 300-ish pages book. I was going to give this book a three or three-point-five out of five. But writing this review, having the time to think about this book more, I actually kind of like this book. Beautiful Ruins is a good book. It has to be read in a certain mood I guess. It’s a beautiful book. It’s a bit slow but it builds up into a beautiful story. So I don’t suggest reading this book if you’re in a slump or looking for a full of action-fast paced read. If you love historical fiction with a slow burn romance, though, I recommend Beautiful Ruins.