Some memories remain close; you can shut your eyes and find yourself back in them. These are first-person memories - I memories. But there are second-person memories, too, distant you memories, and these are trickier: you watch yourself in disbelief [...]. Even recalling it is like watching a movie; you're up on screen doing theses awful things and you can't quite believe it...
I was really excited to see that TLC was doing a tour for Jess Walter's new book Beautiful Ruins. I had heard good things about The Financial Lives of the Poets, and although I hadn't gotten around to reading it yet, I was eager to add this new novel to my summer TBR. And now, after reading this one, I'm sure that I will get around to reading Walter's earlier work as well.
The story in Beautiful Ruins begins in Italy, with a young inn keeper, Pasquale, on a remote island, receiving his very first (well almost-first) American guest, an ailing young movie actress fresh off the set of the infamous Liz Taylor and Dick Burton production of Cleopatra. Cut in the very next chapter, to the present day Los Angeles and a young, sharp development assistant for a famous Hollywood producer. She is on the verge of quitting her job, disenchanted with movie industry she once loved, and desperately hoping for some final spark of inspiration in the form of a sale-able script. And as the chapters progress it is these two stories that intersect, tangling around each other for most of the book until they become one at the end.
And in the middle there are all kinds of wonderful digressions. Two of my favorite chapters in the book are these digressions. The first is a the chapter written by a young Alvis Bender, the inn's actual first American best and a WWII solider and aspiring writer. It tells the tale of the end of the war for one particular soldier. The other is from another aspiring writer, this time for the screen: Shane Wheeler's treatment of his script about the Donner party. Throughout the book, Walter shows a real knack for changing his voice and tone. I read in another review, I think, that he manages to make the voices of his characters distinct, which is something that is sometimes lacking in novels told from multiple points of view. He can also be sometimes funny, and sometimes heartbreaking, and the story was both engaging and satisfying in the end. I would definitely recommend the book.
Title: Beautiful RuinsAuthor: Jess Walter
Publisher: Harper Collins
Genre: Literary Fiction
Where I got it: From the publisher through TLC Book Tours