Tuesday, September 18, 2012

CBR4 #32 Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter

The story begins in 1962. On a rocky patch of the sun-drenched Italian coastline, a young innkeeper, chest-deep in daydreams, looks out 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. 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 ofCleopatra 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. 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.

ARC from Harper Collins

This book is an old Hollywood drama mixed with a touching love story that blossomed in a little Italian village. I enjoyed the way the book went back and forth between present day and flashbacks.  Walter mixes up the different prose formats nicely - book chapter, movie script and play script. Small town life abroad and in the US is represented well. There is a theme of overall sadness and missed opportunities to the whole book. I appreciate how technology didn't play a big part in the modern day part of the story. The characters made connections using old-fashioned leg work. Very touching and moving read! 

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