Beautiful Ruins – Jess Walker

imagesThe Italian Riviera, Hollywood, the 60’s and romance…what’s not to love?

I fell in love with this book from the first paragraph…

‘The dying actress arrived in his village the only way one could come directly—in a boat that motored into the cove, lurched past the rock jetty, and bumped against the end of the pier. She wavered a moment in the boat’s stern, then extended a slender hand to grip the mahogany railing; with the other, she pressed a wide-brimmed hat against her head. All around her, shards of sunlight broke on the flickering waves.’

Pasquale Tursi owns a hotel on a desolate (fictitious) island clamped to the rear of the stunning Cinque Terre. Left to look after the crumbling hotel after his father’s death, the clings to the idea of American movie stars visiting his intimate (read: tiny) island, and works to finish creating the beach and tennis court on the cliffs which he is certain will bring them there. In his spare time, he tries to convince the owners of the Cinque Terre to include his little dot into their fold – after all, Sei Terre is so much easier on the tongue, no?

And then one day…Dee Mornay, fresh off the Cleopatra set in Rome, materialises at the end of his dock. She is to spend some time on the island, prior to boarding for Switzerland where she is to receive treatment for stomach cancer. And so begins saga that is to play out across decades and continents.
Moving on to present-day Hollywood, we’re introduced to Claire and her infamous boss, Michael Deane, a Hollywood heavyweight who has seen his share of scandal, beginning with his first film set, which happens to be Cleopatra in Rome.
What happens next connects all these stories, taking us through time and space to uncover what may have been, and ultimately how life often plays out like a Beautiful Ruin.

‘“His life was two lives now: the life he would have and the life he would forever wonder about.”

Jess Walter is an amazing writer, and this book is his seventh novel, which can only mean I have another six to sink my teeth into! For such a short book, he manages to fit in a lot of detail and character work. I loved loved LOVED Pasquale and Alvis, and loved the minor characters that were dispersed, somewhat randomly it seemed throughout the book, who all end up crucial to the overall story.
Memorable Quotes –

“Sometimes what we want to do and what we must do are not the same. Pasquo, the smaller the space between your desire and what is right, the happier you will be.”


“What business does memory have with time?”

I recommend this book to anyone who likes a smart, easy read combining romance and travel. Although the cover makes it look like a beach read, anyone looking for something trashy will be sorely disappointed.


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