Review: Beautiful Ruins

Beautiful Ruins

Beautiful Ruins
By Jess Walter
(Harper Perennial, Paperback, 9780061928178, April 2013, 352pp.)

The Short of It:

Fitting title for a book that just didn’t work for me.

The Rest of It:

This story bounces back and forth between 1962 and the present. Pasquale Tursi, an innkeeper at the not so illustrious Adequate View Inn, finds himself in the middle of a scandalous cover-up. Dee Moray, an actress on the set of Cleopatra is sent away to deal with her cancer. At least, that is what SHE has been told when in reality, what she is dealing with is an unwanted pregnancy and the father happens to be none other than Richard Burton himself.

The Italian setting is lovely as is Pasquale Tursi. Even with his broken English, he is wonderful but there isn’t nearly enough of him in this novel. And Dee? A pleasant girl but clueless. Not really anyone I wanted to get to know. And the entire Richard Burton back story? Please. I will say this, I liked the parts set in Italy much more than the parts of the story set in Los Angeles. That whole Hollywood scene just isn’t my thing and I live here!

Many have given this book high marks. It’s been described as hilarious and fun. I didn’t find it hilarious or fun. At times I found myself frustrated with the back and forth and other times, I just didn’t care what happened to these people. Had it not been a book club pick, I probably would have put it down. It seemed a little cartoonish and stereotypical and as deep as I dug, I didn’t find any depth whatsoever.

I will say this though, with Walter’s work being so well-received by others, I would absolutely read another book by him. I think in this case, the subject matter just didn’t work for me.

Source: Borrowed
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

26 thoughts on “Review: Beautiful Ruins”

  1. A friend lent me this quite a few months ago so I feel obliged to read it, but I’ve started and stopped it several times, which is never a good sign! I just don’t think it’s going to be for me…..

    1. I started and stopped many times but since I was reading it for book club, I felt obligated to finish it.  Can’t say that I felt it was totally worth it, but I’d still read another book by him. I just think this particular subject matter did not work for me. My book club was not a fan of it, but it made for some good  discussion. 

    1. The author even said in an interview that characters were introduced, specifically, just to move the story along. And it’s clear from the interview I saw on YouTube that his real passion is screenwriting. I think all of his books are created in a way that  will translate to film at some point. At least, that is his hope. 

      My book club and I couldn’t figure out where the glowing reviews were coming from. I mean, it was an okay read but from the reviews I expected it to be much more. 


  2. It seems like everyone loves this book, yet it just doesn’t appeal to me at all. Yours is the first not-so-glowing review I’ve read and I have a feeling my reaction would be very similar.

    1. My book club was lukewarm over it. Some of it they liked, but most couldn’t really figure out the motivation behind most of the story. 


  3. I’m so glad I read your review, because now I know that I won’t be wasting my time reading this one. I have it on my Amazon wishlist, but it is coming off of it ASAP. Hopefully your next read will be fantastic 🙂

    1. I think some people will appreciate it more than others. Knowing your reading tastes, I’d say this one is not for you so yes, take it off the list!


  4. I just didn’t get all the kudos over this book. Like you, it just didn’t work for me, and I tried the audio, so between us we had it covered LOL

    1. If you do read it, try not to think of it as a novel. I think it reads better as a screenplay. It’s episodic, if that makes any kind of sense. 


  5. OMG. Thank you!!!! I thought I was the ONLY one who didn’t really like this one, especially when it started winning awards and garnering other accolades. You are absolutely right in that I just didn’t care about any of the characters, and the back-and-forth just got old. I’ve heard the audiobook narrator is amazing, but I still can’t see how he turned this mediocre book into something over which I would want to gush.

    1. Yeah, I really questioned his motives with this one. I didn’t really feel as if he wanted to tell ‘a’ story. Instead, I feel as if he tried to tell many, in order to increase chances for a script later. Remember the script that the one character pitches? Donner! Well, Walter actually was approached to have it published in a literary journal. For REAL! And  I know Walter was working on the script for Beautiful Ruins too but I don’t think it was ever made into anything. 


  6. I did like Beautiful Ruins, but I regretted not listening to it because it was supposed to be especially great on audio. I remember thinking that it wasn’t the humorous romp that I thought it was supposed to be; I thought it was quite melancholy, over all, except for some of the Richard Burton moments.

  7. Aw I’m sad you didn’t like this! I loved it and all the different ways it came together! Well definitely try Walters again. I recently finished his book of short stories which I really enjoyed.

    1. I will definitely give Walter another try. This one just felt a bit disjointed to me. I loved the setting though.. the story set in Italy.  I sort of wish he has stayed with that part of it. 


  8. Yeah my sister hated this one and I gave it to her as a gift so I feel lousy about that. I’m staying clear of it — despite loving Italy. hmm

    1. Well, based on the rave reviews, you were right on the money for buying it as a gift. MANY did like it.  I won’t buy a book as a gift unless I’ve read it first, just for this reason. 



  9. To be honest, I only recall how wonderful that narrator’s accent was. #shrug But, be warned, The Cold Millions is back and forth on character focus, too. Maybe Walter just isn’t for you. Same for me and Kristin Hannah – I do not understand why everyone raves about her books. I can’t get through theml I find them tedious.

    1. I’ve not even attempted Hannah because I’ve heard so many use the word tedious to describe her writing. I have no patience for that these days.

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