Welcome to Quick Lit, where we share short and sweet reviews of what we’ve been reading lately each month on the 15th. Brought to you by Anne at Modern Mrs. Darcy, we link up on her blog to see what others are reading!
Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter
The story begins in 1962. On a rocky patch of the sun-drenched Italian coastline, a young innkeeper, chest-deep in daydreams, looks out over the incandescent waters of the Ligurian Sea and spies an apparition: a tall, thin woman, a vision in white, approaching him on a boat. She is an actress, he soon learns, an American starlet, and she is dying.
And the story begins again today, half a world away, when an elderly Italian man shows up on a movie studio’s back lot—searching for the mysterious woman he last saw at his hotel decades earlier.
What unfolds is a dazzling, yet deeply human, roller coaster of a novel, spanning fifty years and nearly as many lives. From the lavish set of Cleopatra to the shabby revelry of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Walter introduces us to the tangled lives of a dozen unforgettable characters: the starstruck Italian innkeeper and his long-lost love; the heroically preserved producer who once brought them together and his idealistic young assistant; the army veteran turned fledgling novelist and the rakish Richard Burton himself, whose appetites set the whole story in motion—along with the husbands and wives, lovers and dreamers, superstars and losers, who populate their world in the decades that follow.
Thoughts so far:
I am already in love with this novel simply because of the Italian context and characters in the 1962 chapters. Moving forward to modern times, I can definitely relate to Claire, the young assistant, as she navigates unhealthy relationships and finding a purpose amidst risk. I appreciate when authors are able to seamlessly jump back and forth between time that makes me wanting to get back to that story in the next chapter. As of right now, I’m intrigued by the actress (Dee) and the hotel owner (Pasquale)’s interactions and care.
It is a quick read so far that has a good range of personalities that add to the narrative. I am interested to see more on the overlap between the two time periods and what each character learns/grows from as part of it, specifically the novelist turned screenwriter. It’s been fun to put some of my Italian practice to work as there are bits of dialogue in the foreign language.
What have you been reading lately?