by Jess Walter
Why did you choose this book? I won a book club set
When did you read this book? November 2013
Who should read this book? anyone reading for the scenery
Source: book club set from Reading Group Guides
Here is a synopsis of Beautiful Ruins from Goodreads
From the moment it opens—on a rocky patch of Italian coastline, circa 1962, when a daydreaming young innkeeper looks out over the water and spies a mysterious woman approaching him on a boat—Jess Walter'sBeautiful Ruins is a dazzling, yet deeply human, roller coaster of a novel. From the lavish set of Cleopatra to the shabby revelry of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, to the back lots of contemporary Hollywood, Beautiful Ruins is gloriously inventive and constantly surprising—a story of flawed yet fascinating people navigating the rocky shores of their lives while clinging to their improbable dreams.
This book was a major disappointment to me! I noticed the beautiful cover right away and I’ve heard so much good about it. So I was excited when I won a set for my book club. Unfortunately, for me, the book did not live up to it’s hype.
The book got off to a good start in the first chapter, set in Italy in the early 1960s. But it quickly went downhill from there. The story bounced between decades and locations, which usually doesn’t bother me. But there were so many characters, mostly unlikeable, and so many side stories, mostly uninteresting. There were two main characters, with an intersting storyline, and two or three more who had necessary supporting roles. But there were some characters who really did not need to be there, who added nothing to the story, and who made the book incredibly slow. There is a problem when I am reading a book, and at the end of each chapter I ask myself….”Is it over yet! Please!” And the storyline involving Richard Burton was a negative, too. I don’t understand why he was brought into the story. I personally think the story would have worked better using a fictional movie star in the same role. But maybe that’s just me?
Actually, I enjoyed the end of the book (discounting the epilogue), which was set where we started out, in Italy, and featured the same two characters from the first chapter. If we could have eliminated some of the characters and cut some of the chapters, I may actually have enjoyed this book!
I obviously am in the clear minority here, as most readers rate this book very highly, so please do not let me review deter you from reading this if you are considering it. Take a look at some of the other reviews before you decide this is not the book for you.