Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter

BLOG“Life, he thought, is a blatant act of imagination.”

With a lovely picture from the trail in Cinque Terre, Italy as the cover, Beautiful Ruins entices with a promise of charm and beauty that can be found in this wonderful part of Italy.  The opening chapter delivers just that as we meet Pasqual in 1962, a young hotel owner in a tiny coastal village who is taken aback by the arrival of an American actress. We soon learn that this actress is dying and from there each chapter takes us to a different time, a different place, and tells a story from a different character’s perspective.  There is Pasqual the hotel owner, Michael Deane the Hollywood producer, his development assistant Claire, struggling novelist Shane Wheeler, and failed musician Pat Bender.  Each character’s story interconnects with one another and somehow relates to the events that unfolded in 1962 Italy.  As the overall story develops we travel back and forth in time, learning and uncovering a long kept secret.

Beautiful Ruins is a beautiful contemporary adult novel.  The author does a wonderful job of presenting each character’s story and blending them all together in a way that is cohesive and flows really well.  I love books that take this approach, and when it works it results in an excellent piece of work. Each character’s story is unique in its own way and quite enjoyable, although I felt the characters of Claire and Shane are not as strong as the rest.  My favourite parts are the ones set in Italy and that tell Pasqual’s story as he is such an engaging personality.  This is not a book about travel.  It is a book about love, life, and hope.  If you enjoy a good contemporary read I would definitely recommend Beautiful Ruins.

Favourite quote: “And even if they don’t find what they’re looking for, isn’t it enough to be out walking together in the sunlight?” 

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