Could you use a vacation? At least a virtual one? If so, Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter is just the ticket.
This novel is an escape to the (fictional) village of Porto Vergogna, a centuries-old seaside town, which is located in the (actual) Cinque Terre area of the Italian Riviera. Portions of the novel also take place in the movie industry in Hollywood, California. The book hops between the 1960s and the early 2000s, sharing an engaging “almost romance” that spans decades. An unknown American actress, a famous Hollywood actor, and the owner of a small hotel in Porto Vergogna are all key to the story. Beautiful Ruins is a page-turner with endearing characters that will touch your heart and make you smile.
The descriptions of the region in Italy are enough to make you want to read the book.
“Finally, they crested the cliff and stood on the ledge above the village, the drop-off right at their feet — wind ripe, sea pulsing, foam curling on the rocks below.”
“Dee stood near the edge, so frail that Pasquale had the urge to grab her, to keep her from being blown away by the wind. ‘It’s gorgeous Pasquale,’ she said. The sky was hazy-clear beneath a smear of faint cloud, washed out blue against the darker sea.” (Chapter 6)
Walter creates characters whose heartaches strike a universal chord.
“Stories are people. I’m a story, you’re a story … your father is a story. Our stories go in every direction, but sometimes, if we’re lucky, our stories join into one, and for a while, we’re less alone.” (Chapter 3)
He also pokes fun at the entertainment industry.
“Great fiction tells unknown truths. Great film goes further. Great film improves Truth. After all, what Truth ever made $40 million in its first weekend of wide release? What Truth sold in forty foreign territories in six hours? Who’s lining up to see a sequel to Truth?” (Chapter 9)
If you are cooped up at home due to a global pandemic (or even if you aren’t!), I highly recommend Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter. Grab a cool drink, put your feet up, and enjoy your well-deserved vacation.
Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter
4 1⁄2 out of 5 Stars
Liz is a technical writer by day and a humor writer by night. She lives in Minnesota with her two teenage daughters and their cats, Beau and Phoebe. When Liz is not reading, writing, or searching for new books to review, she can be found practicing yoga or enjoying time with friends and family — usually around a fireplace or a lake. She is savoring the time that she still has with her daughters under her roof, yet she secretly dreams of being an empty nester who can travel more and not have to worry about other people borrowing her socks.