Saturday, February 8, 2014

Beautiful Ruins

Beautiful Ruins
By: Jess Walter

My Rating: 3 stars             
Who Should Read This: Anyone who loves books that take you through various decades with a heartwarming yet heart wrenching love story. The book is written through multiple perspectives, giving the reader a chance to see everyone’s point of view on the actions that effected all of their lives.

Synopsis (From Goodreads): 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 star struck 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.

My Thoughts: This is a book I had wanted to read for awhile now. I had heard really good reviews from multiple blogs, and the synopsis promised me all the makings of a good love story. I spent two weeks in Italy after undergrad, and loved all of the history and culture that it oozes. And what people say about Cinque Terre is absolutely true, it is breathtaking!! The pictures of it are beautiful, but if you have the chance to go there, I HIGHLY recommend it! Needless to say, I was excited to read the book and go back to Italy for a little while. The book turned out to be a lot different then what I was expecting. As the synopsis says, the book does span through various generations and places. I actually did like the jumping around in time and places, but at points there were parts that in the end I was unsure why the author included them.

I think what surprised me the most was how much I disliked some of the major characters, and I think the story might have been better actually if the write had incorporated fewer characters. At points it felt that some were unneeded. Michael Deane, the producer, was extremely unreal although I don’t know what I was expecting from a character based in Hollywood and in the movie franchise. Even Claire his assistant, who was in a quarter life crisis and who truly wanted to make great movies and not crappy reality tv shows, bothered me. I felt like nothing was ever good enough for her. She seemed to be in a constant rambling of complaints and I wanted to tell her to make up her mind and make a decision. 

I promise I didn’t dislike all of the characters. Pasquale stole my heart from the very beginning. This shy, timid, Italian man made me a believer in the kindness of humanity, and that there are those out in the world that actually do, do the right thing. Even I would probably feel inadequate of Pasquale’s friendship if he existed in real life. He was so selfless and a romantic and I just adored him. When Pasquale first sees Dee, the actress, who has come to his small sea town in Italy, he falls in love just seeing her and knows that 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.” Ugh, just love! 

Ultimately, I give credit to Jess Walter for writing an eloquent love story. The book was well written and in the end he tied everything together in a way that will leave readers satisfied and content. I really enjoyed the ending and although I won’t give too much away as to not ruin it for others, I will say that it made me remember the importance of love, in all its forms. The love we find in a significant other, the love of we have for our children and family, the love we find in a stranger who brings us peace of mind, even the love we have for a truly great artist who reminds us of how fragile we as humans can  be. 

I am interested to know what others thought of it, so if you have read this book, please let me know!