7 reviews

Beautiful Ruins: A Novel (P.S.)
by Jess Walter

Published: 2013-04-02
Paperback : 337 pages
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Recommended to book clubs by 7 of 7 members

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 ...

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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. 

Editorial Review

Adriana Trigiani Reviews Beautiful Ruins

Adriana Trigiani

Beautiful Ruinsis a glorious read for book lovers. From the moment you pick up the novel, it conjures a world that you long to enter. The teal-blue Ligurian Sea laps against a jagged coastline filled with candy-colored houses and open windows. At first glance, you’re dying to get inside those houses and find out what’s going on.

You needn’t worry. Jess Walter has written a sumptuous epic about the real people who make art, spinning illusion for fun, profit, and meaning. There are screen actors, a novelist, and Pasquale, an innkeeper, who keeps his patrons fed and watered on homemade wine and dreams. Among all the shimmer and hope are the lost souls who long to create something, anything. And just as Jess Walter introduces us to these characters, he follows them for fifty years. The journey will delight and captivate you.

You will be crushed when the novelist, Alvis, tracks down a woman whom he believed saved him in his youth, only to take a long walk down a dark hallway into a room where everything he believes and all his hopes shatter in one exchange. Jess Walter can break your heart in one conversation.

If you love the ancient charms of the Italian coast on the Ligurian Sea, if you long for Edinburgh and its cold rain and distant hot sun, and if you love stories of the dream factory that is Hollywood, you will not be able to part from this book until you are finished reading it. Even then, for months afterward, you’ll keep it close so you can reread a passage here and there that moved you.

It’s all here, the illusion and reality, the joy and the shame of the creative life, of life itself. The ingenue Dee, the producer Michael, and the D-girl Claire take you into the world of making movies, the expectations and disappointments, and in an ingenious turn, the author pins the hem of the action with real Hollywood stars, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, who are engaging in a drama of their own in Rome.

Jess Walter has quietly and expertly built a career over six novels that puts him at the forefront of great American writers. Beautiful Ruins is the emerald among the pearls.


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Discussion Questions

Suggested by Members

Reborn lives
Being happy
by Gaykirk (see profile) 10/06/16

What would the book have been like had it been writtenn in chronological order?
by nitwitty (see profile) 08/17/14

What was the author's purpose in writing this book?
Setting almost always means something. What did each setting symbolize? Would this story work as we'll in a different setting? Explain.
Which character changed the most? Who is the book really about?
by Teamvargo (see profile) 02/12/14

Who would you cast for each character in a movie?
Was the ending in Dee's mind or was it reality?
What character did you like the most or find interesting?
by Chris@JAX (see profile) 05/05/13

Is the last chapter of the book really a part of the main body of the story or is it something else? Such as everyone's fantasy ending, the perfect
Discuss the lie and deception of telling a young woman she has cancer, the role of manipulation to get what you want in Hollywood and life.
research and discuss how the author has knowledge or thought to bring so many different components together in one book: war, Italy, film making, Hollywood stars, addiction, love, and across so many generations.
by gbierman (see profile) 03/12/13

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by Karen R. (see profile) 01/13/24

by Lori A. (see profile) 08/15/21

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by Rachel P. (see profile) 06/23/20

  "Brilliant prose within well-told beautifully written story"by Jodie B. (see profile) 12/09/19

4.5 Stars Beautifully written, well told story. Walter's prose is magnificent. Seamless transitions between several time periods weaving the overall narrative together perfectly.

by Lori S. (see profile) 12/01/19

by Chary P. (see profile) 11/26/19

by Tiffany P. (see profile) 11/08/19

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