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Beautiful Ruins

By Jess Walter
Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter digital book - Fable

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Publisher Description

“Why mince words? Beautiful Ruins is an absolute masterpiece.” — Richard Russo

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. 

The story begins in 1962. On a rocky patch of the sun-drenched Italian coastline, a young innkeeper, deep in daydreams, looks out over the 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 American starlet, he soon learns, 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 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.

142 Reviews

Smiling Face with Heart-Eyes“Amazing. In the beginning I was unsure of how I would like it, but as the story continued and the characters developed, I began to truly love this book. The different timeliness could be confusing at certain points, but overall I liked the change from a typical timeline. Especially once they started overlapping and intersecting. Overall, I thought the book was sweet and heartwarming and effectivley portrayed some harder topics.”
Multi-layered charactersComplexBeautiful settingMeaningful
Beaming Face with Smiling Eyes“Ended up enjoying this much more than originally expected. It took off after a slow start. I especially loved the intermixing of real-life historical Hollywood and fiction. Reminded me a bit of Love Actually- in that the mechanic is that all of these lives are intertwined and have direct and indirect effects on each other.”
Colorful personalitiesLikable charactersMulti-layered charactersBeautifully writtenComplexTwistyCreative settingDescriptiveWell-researched
Smiling Face with Heart-Eyes“I agree, the slow start lost it half a star in my opinion. But ultimately a really good book. I loved all the different stories and how the author tied everything together!”
Characters change and growColorful personalitiesDiverse charactersLikable charactersMulti-layered charactersOriginal charactersOriginal writingComplex
Loudly Crying Face“Only not a 5 star because of the slow start and the initial confusion of the different stories. But omg I was floored by the end of this book. The structure was so cool and original. The characters were complex, compelling, and very relatable on a number of levels. I felt invested in their stories and cheered for their accomplishments while also being crushed by their struggles and setbacks. So so good. Would definitely recommend to others.”
Characters change and growMulti-layered charactersRelatable charactersBeautifully writtenComplexHeartbreakingMeaningful
“A bit of a crude train wreck of various lives, but pulled together in such a way that you feel like watching the composite train wreck was worth it. Sad yet poignant, and cleverly written.”

About Jess Walter

Jess Walter is the author of six novels, including the bestsellers Beautiful Ruins and The Financial Lives of the Poets, the National Book Award finalist The Zero, and Citizen Vince, the winner of the Edgar Award for best novel. His short fiction has appeared in Harper's, McSweeney's, and Playboy, as well as The Best American Short Stories and The Best American Nonrequired Reading. He lives in his hometown of Spokane, Washington.

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