Monday, April 8, 2013

My take on: Beautiful Ruins

I'm not sure where to start with this one. There is so much going on with Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter. Some of it is really good, and some of it is just ok. I've wanted to read this one for a while. Not because I knew about the storyline. Why did I want to read it then? The cover. That cover is gorgeous. That village by the sea looks so inviting. It looks like a place to just relax. A place to sit by the sea with a glass of wine and a book.

The story begins in the coastal Italian city of Porto Vergogna in 1962. Spanning several decades and countries, Beautiful Ruins (in my opinion) is a love story. Do you follow your heart, no matter who it hurts?

Following the death of his father in 1962, the young Pasquale Tursi has just come home to Porto Vergogna. He has plans to revitalize the family hotel, but a young American actress is about derail those plans. A promising acting career and a part in the upcoming epic Cleopatra, is put on hold on when actress Dee Moray is exiled to this small coastal city. In this world, it seems Elizabeth Taylor wasn't the only one having an affair with Richard Burton. Only in the case of poor Dee, she is pregnant with his child. A shady doctor and a shady Hollywood exec, Michael Deane, convince the beautiful blond that she is dying of stomach cancer. It sounds so cruel, but given the time period I could totally see it happening. Sure Cleopatra was shaping up to be a flop, but does the studio need an additional scandal attached to the picture? Shenanigans like this probably still go on, no matter who they hurt.

If Dee had been told the truth, would she and Pasquale ever have crossed paths? Probably not? Pasquale can't fully understand English, and Dee doesn't fully understand Italian, but they can still communicate. No words are needed to show how devastated Dee is. No one, except Pasquale, cares what happens to her. No one appears to be coming for her. No words are needed to show how much Pasquale cares for her. Over the course of a few days, Dee and Pasquale form a bond that spans 50 years. Somehow you just hope they can find their way back to each other. Outside forces brought them together, maybe those same forces can bring them together again.

In the present day, Michael Deane is still mixing things up in Hollywood. When Pasquale shows up at his studio searching for Dee, I thought this would be Deane's chance at redemption. Throughout the book, Deane is portrayed as a conniving, egotistical jerk. Maybe he is ready to make amends. You will have to read the book to find that one out.

The present day aspects of the book were a little slow for me. I was more engaged in the 1962 storyline. Getting a glimpse into the past was far more interesting for me. The book isn't a linear narrative, and it goes back and forth between the past and present. Sometimes the breaks between the past and present were too long for me. I kept reading because I wanted to get back to the 1962 angle. Towards the end the book, it starts to pick up again, but then the ending fell a little flat for me. I'm thinking, "that's it?" But...I'm glad I kept reading because a certain passage near the end stuck out for me.

"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!" -- Pg. 266

It's said in a drunken moment, but it makes a lot of sense. I took it to mean that no one can take your story from you, it's your own tell and your own to shape. Good words to live by!

Rating: Give it a try

Note: I received a copy of the book from the publisher (HarperCollins) as a part of a blog tour with TLC Book Tours


  1. That quote does reflect how a filmmaker might see things. So many qood quotes in this book!

  2. I read this is being made into a movie. I think this is the type of book that would work better as a movie.

  3. I have to admit that I read this one for the cover too ... it IS gorgeous.

    Thanks for being on the tour!