Friday, November 21, 2014

Beautiful Ruins

"But then she turned directly to him, and the disparate features of her drastic face came together as a single, perfect thing, and Pasquale recalled from his studies how some buildings in Florence could disappoint from various angles and yet always presented well in relief, always photographed well; that the various vantages were made to be composed; and so, too, he thought, some people. Then she smiled, and in that instant, if such a thing were possible, Pasquale fell in love, and he would remain in love for the rest of his life— not so much with the woman, whom he didn’t even know, but with the moment."

Walter, Jess (2012-06-12). Beautiful Ruins (p. 8). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition. 

When I read the above excerpt on Facebook I knew I would buy this book. Before I clicked on "Buy With One Click" I read a few reviews. This one caught my eye:

“A literary miracle. . . . A sweeping stunner of a narrative. . . . The entire novel is a kaleidoscopic collection of ‘beautiful ruins,’ both architectural and human. This novel is a standout not just because of the inventiveness of its plot, but also because of its language.” —Maureen Corrigan, NPR’s Fresh Air

I like to think that I write literary fiction. A couple years ago, a friend in my writers group (Rick Bylina) suggested that my writing could contain more layers, my characters could be deeper, my descriptions more colorful. As I listened to this critique, I felt a fog creep into my mind and since then my writing became a puzzle with missing pieces. (I am happy to say that later that year Rick pronounced Child of My Heart to be "one of the five best books he'd read all year") and he'd read one a week! But while reading Jess Walter's Beautiful Ruins I slowly began to understand my friend's critique. Jess Walter writes Literary Fiction—the kind of fiction I want to write. "Beautiful Ruins" captivated and enthralled me and kept me on the edge of my seat while also painting majestic pictures of people, places, and things so intimate that I felt I was a part of the story.

Beautiful Ruins begins in 1962 in Porto Vergogna (a tiny island just minutes away from the Italian Rivera) where the protagonist, Pasquale Tursi, is attempting to build a beach for his small hotel, The Hotel Adequate View. A film producer has sent the beautiful Hollywood actress, Dee Moray (who has just been diagnosed with stomach cancer) to Pasquale’s pensione to rest until he can come for her and take her to Switzerland for treatment. But he doesn’t show up. The story jumps to present day where the producer is about to encounter Dee once again.

I usually don’t enjoy stories that go back and forth and delve into every character’s life story but this one is pure genius! I don’t want to give any more of this delicious story away so I’ll stop and hope that you’ll read Beautiful Ruins and not only enjoy it but learn something about your own life.


  1. I am glad that I read this book too! Great post!

    1. I wanted to credit you with the suggestion to read this book but couldn't find your website. Do you still have one? I couldn't find your FB page about book talk. Is that gone too? Anyway, thanks. I loved the book. My writers group met tonight and NONE of them liked the blurb I posted and none want to read the book. There loss.... I thought it was the best book I've read in some time! Thanks for dropping by and posting!