I know they say you should never judge a book by it’s over. . . but that’s exactly what I did with Beautiful Ruins, By Jess Walter.
Thank Goodness it didn’t disappoint.
Beautiful Ruins caught my attention with it’s beautiful cover art, but kept my interest with it’s story.
We begin in the small fictional town of Porto Vergogna in 1962 where we are introduced to Pasquale, the young innskeeper at the Hotel Adequate View. The pensione as it is referred to, is Pasquale’s families attempt at a safe life after a tumultuous couple of life events, specifically the death of Pasquale’s two older brothers in the War. Started previously by his parents, in 1962 the Hotel Adequate View is being run by Pasquale following his father’s sudden death. Back from University, Pasquale is disillusioned by life at the pensione, but is brought back to where he grew up by family obligations to run the inn and take care of his ailing mother.
The story quickly begins when we see Dee Moray, a beautiful Hollywood actress who is in Italy to film the huge Hollywood movie, Cleopatra. Pasquale cannot believe that she would purposefully intend to stay at HIS pensione, but we learn that Dee is actually very sick and has been sent off set to the secluded inn for rest. From first glance, Pasquale is instantly in love with Dee, and we follow them through some emotional interactions that defy the language and cultural barriers between them.
We then move in time to recent Hollywood where we are introduced to Claire Silver, a young Hollywood “chief development assistant” for the past-his-prime Hollywood producer, Michael Dean. Claire is disillusioned by much in her life: her slacker boyfriend addicted to porn and strip clubs, a boss she vehemently disagrees with, and a lack of direction as to HOW she got to this point in her life and where she can go from here. The stories quickly come together when an old Italian man, Pasquale, comes into their Hollywood office on a major “pitch day,” not to pitch a movie idea, but instead to find a long lost love whom he believe Mr. Dean can help him find: Dee Moray.
The novel jumps between different time in history, following the different primary characters in different phases, locations and directions in their lives. But ultimately, their stories are all tied together and told beautifully, by the unique and simple Hotel Adequate View.
I love love. And because of this, I truly did love Beautiful Ruins. The relationships described in the novel are so unique, heartfelt, and jarring, that I couldn’t help but get sucked in. This isn’t a fairy tale love story, far from it, but it is a story that feels genuine and rich with human emotion, and THAT kept my attention.
The jumpy nature of the novel: going back and forth in time and switching settings, was a bit jarring and took some adjusting. But, by the end of the novel I really enjoyed the way all of the stories were intertwined together. Be warned, but know it’s worth it- and even if it seems a bit confusing, it all does come together. By the time I finished the novel, I felt a sense of joy AND closure that I haven’t gotten from a story in a long time. And that is beautiful .
Heading to the beach? Going on a road trip? Or just have some down time and want a good read, definitely pick up Beautiful Ruins. It’ll have you intrigued the entire time, then leave your heart smiling.
Question of the Afternoon: Have you ever judged a book by it’s cover?