Book Review: Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter

Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter

Rating: 4.5/5 stars
Number of pages: 340
First published: 2012
I got this book: from Harper for review
Genre: historical and contemporary fiction

Beautiful Ruins: What it is about

Pasquale is a simple hotel owner in a small village in Italy in the 1960s. One day, an American movie star comes to stay at his hotel. She is called Dee Mory and is working on a movie in the nearby town. He falls in love with her, but it transpires that she has been dumped there by the director of the movie, who wants to avoid her and Richard Burton to continue their affair. Richard is supposed to be in love with Elizabeth Taylor (that real-life love story will help promote the movie).

In the current time, the (now old) movie director, long back in America, and his assistant Claire, are visited by Pasquale, who wants to know what happened to “his” starlet. Also visiting is a younger man, who wants to pitch his movie idea to the director, but gets involved in Pasquale’s quest because he speaks Italian and can translate between the men. So they go and look for Dee (who never became famous).

The book alternates between the current time and the past and bit by bit the reader finds out the full story of the starlet. The writing is beautiful!

Beautiful Ruins: What I thought

I loved the dreamlike story of Pasquale who falls in love with Dee but has no chance of starting a relationship with her. She is in love with the actor Richard Burton although Richard doesn’t seem quite so dedicated to her.

While I’m not a short story lover, I very much enjoyed the (two) embedded stories: one story written by an American writer who vists Pasquale’s hotel around the same time as Dee, this is a story about world war II. The other story is a film pitch, taking place in 1846.

I liked how in the current time line several unlikely people come together in search of Dee Moray. The story kept its momentum throughout. The 1960s story had a movie-like feel to it with some real American actors in a forgotten Italian town, with relationship issues and a hotel owner with a secret love of his own (other than Dee).

A great read, recommended!


About Leeswammes
I'm owner and editor at In my free time, I read and review books on my two blogs, Leeswammes' Blog and De Boekblogger.

13 Responses to Book Review: Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter

  1. harvee says:

    I have had this on my radar for a while. Looks like a good read.

  2. Leslie says:

    I enjoyed this one too. I thought the stories within the story added to the book as a whole. You didn’t mention the cannibals… that was so bad it was good!

  3. This seems like a very nice read, Judith, although if I had to judge the book based on the cover I would have thought it was a light beach read, probably some sort of romance. In a way, that’s what it is, I guess, but one of the interesting kinds.

    • Leeswammes says:

      Nadine, it’s definitely not a beach read/romance. It’s more serious than that. I also wasn’t quite sure when looking at the cover, but the story is really good.

  4. theonlycin says:

    It does seem unlikely, but I think I’d enjoy this too. Will look out for it.

  5. JannyAn says:

    I’ve got a long list of books I would like to read. But 4,5 out of 5 menas you really highly appreciate this book. I think I’ll put it on my list as well

    • Leeswammes says:

      Janny, my wishlist is growing steadily too. I think it will have to become a “recommendations list”, but at the moment I still have a vague hope that I will read all the books on that list.

  6. Pingback: Book Review - BEAUTIFUL RUINS by Jess Walter

  7. Care says:

    The cover seems to be influencing more than I would expect – I’ve heard others say they hate it. I wonder if it would be read more if it had something different. (I loved the book.)

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