Beautiful Ruins

By Jess Walter,

Book cover of Beautiful Ruins

Book description

The #1 New York Times bestseller—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…

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Why read it?

6 authors picked Beautiful Ruins as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

I decided to read this book as research for my latest YA novel. I was curious how Walter managed different timelines. Little did I know how engrossed I would become by this sweeping story of love and old Hollywood?

I was gripped by the characters and surprised by the turns in the plot. I found myself hoping for a very specific ending, which I usually try not to do as that’s the author’s job.

One storyline takes place during the production of the ill-fated Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton epic Cleopatra, and that’s all I needed to keep reading. Yet,…

What draws me to any novel is its characters — people who are so well-drawn and real-seeming that I can almost imagine sitting down with them over a cup of coffee or glass of wine… people who are at the same time sympathetic and flawed… people who face challenges I identify with. And if they’re a bit quirky and eccentric (like me!), so much the better. 

Moreover, if any part of those characters’ stories is set at least partly in a place I love (Italy, in this case), I’m easily hooked. Beautiful Ruins covers all those bases!

I didn’t want…

A friend of mine recommended this book before it became well-known—and the moment I saw the cover, I knew I had to own it!

Turquoise-blue water, a jagged Italian coastline, pastel-colored buildings set against a cliff, and oh—that typeface that screams late 1950s/early 1960s! Such enticing visuals! Of course, with such a setup, I might have been expecting too much—but the story didn’t disappoint me.

Its initial chapters are set in a small, down-on-its-luck hotel in a remote Italian village where a young starlet with a compelling secret comes to stay. Spanning time periods and continents, the novel has an…

This novel is a hilarious, intriguing romp, that begins in one of my favorite Italian locations—the coast of Liguria. I loved being taken to an imaginary seaside village there in the 1960s—before the area became crowded with tourists. Walters’ overlapping stories and charactersfrom impoverished Italian villagers to Rome during its La Dolce Vita heyday, and contemporary Hollywood producers, combined to bring me a love story that totally charmed me.

From Susan's list on women who love Italy.

I have gone back to this story multiple times to laugh and cry on the same page. It’s an expansive novel, which toggles between Hollywood, Rome, and the Cinque Terre with equal ease and sensory description. (I vaguely remember that Ireland and the Northwest are in there as well. Yep, you are swept up and around the globe.) Some of the international cast of characters are hilarious, including an over-the-top star turn by Richard Burton. But, it’s not all fun and games. There is a mystery of identity, unfinished business, and unresolved love, with all its joy and heartbreak. Jess…

Jess Walter’s joyfully quirky, bittersweet novel overflows with Hollywood denizens. It’s 1962 in a tiny Italian seaside resort spot near where Elizabeth Taylor (her again?) and Richard Burton are filming Cleopatra. Meanwhile, a blonde starlet scheduled to appear in that ill-fated historical epic turns up pregnant by Burton. While a film studio functionary tries pressuring her into a secret abortion while hiding her away from scandal in a secluded hotel, the hotel’s charming young owner falls hopelessly in love. The stage is set for a rueful, time-shifting romance, the aftermath of which unfolds 50 years later. The studio…

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