Monday, November 4, 2013

Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter

In 1962, Pasquale is trying to promote and improve his family’s hotel in a remote coastal Italian community. He is surprised when a young American movie actress, Dee Moray, shows up looking for a room. He is further surprised to discover she is dying of cancer. The book flips between many different viewpoints of the story through the years. In present day, Shane Wheeler is trying to sell his movie idea to Claire Silver, the legendary producer Michael Deane’s assistant, when he finds himself an impromptu translator for an aged Pasquale who has turned up looking for Dee Moray. Together they all unravel the love story of Dee, which touched many lives including film legends Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton.

I love 1960’s film so having the novel set during that time and involving the production of Cleopatra was wonderful. The novel also touched the horrors of WWII with novelist Alvis Bender. He wrote one perfect chapter of a novel while staying at Pasquale’s hotel, but was never able to finish it. I loved the threads of all of the tales and how they eventually wound up together in one perfect story. I still find myself thinking about this novel, it was a great read.

Beautiful Ruins was the September FLICKS Book and Movie club pick (I’m behind on my reviews!). I sadly had to miss that meeting due to work; I really would have liked to discuss the novel!

Being a Wisconsinite, these quotes were some of my favorites in the novel. It is a young woman, Maria, talking to Alvis while he is in Italy during WWII.

“I can take you to Wisconsin. You can get fat there.”

“Ah, Wisconsin,” she said, “The cheese and the dairy fields.” She waved her hand in front of her face as if Wisconsin lay just beyond the shrub trees alongside the road. “Cows, farms, and Madison, moon over the river, and the college of the Badgers. It is cold in the winter but in the summer there are beautiful farm girls with pigtails and red cheeks.”

Book Source: The Kewaunee Public Library


  1. I enjoyed this one too. Great descriptions!

  2. I loved the audiobook - narrator did a fantastic job.

  3. That is great to know that it is an excellent audiobook. I may have to check that out in the future!