Book Review: Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter
August 1, 2012 13 Comments
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!