Beautiful Ruins

Beautiful Ruins

A Novel

Book - 2012
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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: the story of an almost-love affair that begins on the Italian coast in 1962 . . . and is rekindled in Hollywood fifty years later.

"Why mince words? Beautiful Ruins is an absolute masterpiece." --Richard Russo

"A ridiculously talented writer." --New York Times
Publisher: New York : Harper, c2012.
ISBN: 9780061928123
Characteristics: 337 p. ;,24 cm.


From Library Staff

This delectable book shuttles between modern Hollywood and a quaint coastal resort in Italy's Cinque Terre. While the novel spans 50 years and multiple geographic locations, the locus of the action is the almost love affair between a innkeeper and the American starlet who stayed at his hotel.

From the critics

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Nov 24, 2019

L. Hertzel

Feb 24, 2019

This book was amazing. Not just for the story, but for the scenery. It made my husband and I stop in Cinque Terre on our honeymoon :)

A tiny, crumbling Italian village. A dreamy young man. An American actress. A wily film producer. And Richard Burton. What’s not to love? It’s a sweeping, gorgeous narrative spanning decades and generations, and merging old Hollywood and new. I listened to this as an audiobook, and actor Edoardo Ballerini’s narration is outstanding – it’s no wonder Salon named this the best audiobook narration of 2012. (submitted by AA)

Oct 30, 2018

It feels that the author has paid a lot of attention to writing this book. And yes, if I am not mistaken, he was writing it during several years.
Different epochs, different circumstances-but always surprisingly accurate language describing each period of time and emotions of every involved character.
At the end he crumpled a little, trying in a few pages to describe fate of each person.

Aug 24, 2018

A love story that started in the 1960s, that went largely unnoticed until an elderly gentleman brought it back to the attention of those involved years ago. Throw in the mixes of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton's whirlwind love affair, it makes Dee's story so much more complicated and mixed.

The setting is beautiful, in a fairly unknown and forgotten little island village, this is where Dee came to hide from the world when she thought she was "dying", and stays at Pasquale's place. The little village and the people who use to live there and still reside there were interesting and an unusual mix.

While the setting is somewhat memorable, the characters themselves aren't. It was fairly easy to forget them and some were hard to connect beyond what was written. The Donner storyline, with the assistant and guy pitching the story are very forgettable and seems pointless to have in the book, could have done without them and their side story.

Jul 12, 2018

Beautiful Ruins was a quick and enjoyable summer read. I adored the storyline's Italian Coastal setting and connected to the first few characters the most. The middle slogged through supporting characters I wasn't as captivated by, but the author made up for it with such a sweet and satisfying ending. Bring this book to the beach!

jagger66 Sep 06, 2017

Too much mincing around and no meat ...Just another so -called Author with freinds giving them a few over blown reviews ....lacks story telling skills ....if a book does not grab you after 100 pages , time to give up....

SnoIsleLib_RuthG May 10, 2017

Like the young man Pascale in the opening scene, shifting rocks and dumping sand into the water in an absurd attempt to make an inhospitable rocky shore and steep cliffs into a luxury resort, this book explores the human struggle to take our damaged life and try to make something beautiful of it, whether you're a glamorous young actress whose career is the price to save a trainwreck of a movie, or if you're a son who doesn't know who his father is (and might not believe it if someone told you), or any of a number of deluded young men and women following a foolish dream. Great literary fiction, written with compassion, earthy humor and poignant insight. A great choice for book discussion groups.

JCLDebbieL Mar 14, 2017

The novel moves back and forth in time between 1962 and modern day and explores several areas of the arts: movies, plays, novels, paintings, and music. Walter skillfully weaves a storyline around the lives of several characters and the inclusion of real life events and people help make this fiction book an enjoyable read.

Jun 01, 2016

This book was recommended to me by a friend, because I had worked at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival a couple of years ago. And BOY does this book capture that experience well. The Fringe is just one big huge demoralizing and demeaning (if you have the unfortunate obligation as I did of handing out flyers to promote your show) clusterf***. Other than that, who wouldn't want to read this book for its wonderful descriptions and depiction of the Cinque Terre region of Italy. I've been to Italy twice but I have yet to go to that region...a major fault on my part that I will have to correct sometime soon!

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booklady413 May 01, 2015

Page 63: "in most of Europe, the peasant class disappeared thirty, forty years ago, but not in Italy. Finally, after two wars, houses spill into the flats and river valleys outside the city walls. But as the walls come down, so does Italian culture, Carlo. Italy becomes like any other place, over-run with people looking for the 'Italian experience.'"

jpainter Sep 19, 2013

“And even if they don't find what they're looking for, isn't it enough to be out walking together in the sunlight?”


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Sep 19, 2013

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.

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