Beautiful Ruins | by Jess Walter

Beautiful Ruins

Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter
(Harper Perennial, 2013, 368 pages)

I really wanted to like this book. It was well-reviewed and a lot of people seemed to enjoy it. Something might have been “lost in translation” since I listened to the audiobook but I just didn’t think the story really lived up to the hype…

Beautiful Ruins jumps back and forth between Italy in the 1960s when “Cleopatra,” featuring Liz Taylor and Richard Burton, was being filmed and the West coast of the present-day United States. In the 60s we are introduced to a young innkeeper named Pasquale. He lives on a remote island in Italy with a name that literally translates to “Port of Shame.” When an American actress named Dee Moray finds her way to his family’s hotel he doesn’t know what to make of things since they so rarely get tourists (with the exception of an American writer named Alvis who loves the island because it’s so isolated). Even though Dee eventually reveals she is dying, it doesn’t keep Pasquale from falling for her…

In the present we are introduced to a number of different people all of whom are connected in some way with the film industry. Claire works for the well-known producer Michael Deane. She’s preparing to leave her job since she doesn’t feel it’s allowing her to live up to her potential. As a young man waits to pitch her his movie idea about the Donner party, an older Italian man named Pasquale enters the picture looking for Michael Deane. Deane is the only person who can assist him in finding a certain actress named Dee Moray…

The story lines are all intermingled as Pasquale sets off to find the woman who stole his heart decades ago. A woman who has made a point of hiding her past, especially from her son.

Like I said, some people loved this book, but I just wasn’t invested – I never felt myself drawn in to the story.

You can also check out Theresa’s review of this title.

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