My Thoughts on Jess Walter's Beautiful Ruins

Welcome to the TLC TOUR for Jess Walter's Beautiful Ruins!

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 Ruins
Author: Jess Walter
 Publisher: Harper Collins
Date: 2012
Genre: Literary Fiction

337 pages.
Where I got it: From the publisher through TLC Book Tours
Challenges: None


  1. I've seen this book mentioned a few other places and I'm always struck by it's beautiful cover, but your review has me sold on it. I'm going to have to track down a copy now! Thanks!

    1. It was a lot of fun. I think it is especially good for a summer read.

  2. The cover doesn't seem to match the content for this one - based on the cover alone I would have thought it was on the lighter end of the chicklit scale.

    1. There is some romance, but I definitely wouldn't call it chick lit. I was a little surprised about the cover too though. It is very bright though, and would grab my attention on a shelf.

  3. Those "wonderful digressions" are sometimes the highlight of a book in my opinion. I can't wait to read this one - it sounds gorgeous!

    Thanks for being on the tour.

  4. I really enjoyed this one too. I also loved the chapter from Alvis's book and the Donner! pitch. I know the Donner! pitch was supposed to be a joke, but I would totally see that movie.

    1. The Donner! pitch was funny, but I didn't find it to be laughably bad either. I probably would have seen the movie too.

  5. I just finished this book last night at 3:30 AM. It surprised me! There are very few books that I've read that have resonated so hard. (Does something resonate "hard?" Meh.) The title was absolutely perfect. There was a very sad, melancholy tone to the book but yet in each story something beautiful came from all that sadness - the part I keep thinking about is the painter who painted the girl in the gun battery. I just can't get that out of my mind!

  6. I've seen this book mentioned a few other places and I'm always struck by it's beautiful cover, It is very bright though, and would grab my attention on a shelf.


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