Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter - 337 pages
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.
My Review: 4.5 stars
Prepare to be dazzled by this author’s insanely spot-on take on people: their emotions, their conversations, their actions and their dreams. This is a simple story with no great villains or famine or excitement. It’s about people and the choices we make and of course then, what ensues after those choices are made. I relished the author’s writing in his ability to take us to the coast of Italy, the streets of Seattle, the movie sets of LA and to the pioneer days of the Sierra Nevada in a mere 336 pages! Until about the last quarter of the book I thought the author, Jess Walters, was a woman. Perhaps it was the font on the cover that led me to that conclusion even more so than his name. Quirky, I know, but that surprise was fun for me to see if the book changed in it’s voice, but by no means did it do so. The quotes I listed below are just several of the many that I loved. I can’t wait to read his previous books.
Quotes I liked:
- “What kind of wife would I be if I left your father simply because he is dead?”
- “Then she smiled, and in that instant, if such a thing were possible, Pasquale fell in love, and he would remain in love for the rest of his life--not so much with the woman, whom he didn’t even know, but with the moment.”
- “Life, he thought, is a blatant act of imagination.”
- “Words and emotions are simple currencies. If we inflate them, they lose their value, just like money. They begin to mean nothing.”
- “...he was part of a ruined generation of young men coddled by their parents--by their mothers especially--raised on unearned self-esteem, in a bubble of over affection, in a sad incubator of phony achievement.”
- “If you really do love me, then it’s even worse the way you act. It means you’re cruel.”
- “He was ready to stop trying matter; he was ready to simply live.”
- “This is what happens when you live in dreams, he thought: you dream this and you dream that and you sleep right through your life.”
- “All we have is the story we tell. Everything we do, every decision we make, our strength, weakness, motivation, history and character--what we believe--none of it is real; it’s all part of the story we tell. But here’s the thing: it’s our goddamned story!”
Tags: 2013, Historical Fiction, Romance, Fiction, Italy
Labels: 2013, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Italy, Romance