Beautiful Ruins
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.

Gloriously inventive, constantly surprising, Beautiful Ruins is a story of flawed yet fascinating people, navigating the rocky shores of their lives while clinging to their improbable dreams.

Beautiful Ruins Details

Book TitleBeautiful Ruins
Book Author
by 118,605 users

Beautiful Ruins Reviews

  • Emer (ALittleHaze)
    Oct 9, 2016

    Emer (ALittleHaze)

    "And even if they don't find what they're looking for, isn't it enough to be out walking together in the sunlight?" These past few weeks I have been sorting through my Goodreads shelves, writing up old reviews and having many arguments with myself over what makes a book five stars and...

  • Perry
    Sep 23, 2016


    Heart-Stabbing Elaboration of Beauty I kept this book on my shelf untouched for nearly 4 years after I couldn't make it past page 20. In April, with the spring weather, I decided to dust off its pretty jacket and read it. So many have reviewed this novel in the time since I bought th...

  • Dem
    Aug 21, 2016


    3.5 Stars This is the type of book that determines your next vacation. Sometimes its not the plot that makes a book memorable but beautiful descriptions of a place and it's inhabitants that can charm and dazzle the reader. A story of greed, treachery and romance set on a rocky patch of...

  • Kristilyn
    Aug 3, 2016


    I had been hearing so many wonderful things about Jess Walters’s Beautiful Ruins that when HarperCollins Canada tweeted that they’d be having a Twitter chat for the book, I just had to pick up a copy. The idea of Italy mixed with that beautiful cover made it a pretty easy sel...

  • Chrissie
    Jul 17, 2016


    Well crafted, but not for me. Stunning narration by Edoardo Ballerini. I'll start with the good. There is humor; we get to laugh at human behavior. Then the mood swings and it turns philosophical in tone and these lines spoke to me too. The author understands people and not just one ki...

  • B the BookAddict
    Apr 21, 2016

    B the BookAddict

    Jess Walter and I have not seen eye to eye on another of his novels but after reading Beautiful Ruins, we have definitely kissed and made up. Actually, we may well be 'besties'. He may have 'beautifully ruined' me for the next dozen or so books that I read; this, his latest novel, coul...

  • Michael
    Jul 24, 2015


    I was delighted by the humor and touching sentimentality in this tale about second chances to repair broken dreams. For me, it was a fun mash-up of a madcap romantic comedy of the Hollywood type and a serious deflation of the same scenario. I would follow happily along for long stretch...

  • Jenna
    Jun 29, 2015


    This has now become one of my favorite reads in a while. The writing was engaging and smart. The characters were memorable and intriguing. The author just had a way of sucking me in so effortlessly that I couldn't seem to put the book down, nor did I want to.There are several character...

  • Kelly (and the Book Boar)
    Feb 9, 2015

    Kelly (and the Book Boar)

    Find all of my reviews at: Ruins was the third book in my library Winter Reading Challenge. I don't know wtf is going on, but I'm having a hell of a time finding a winner. Curse you, library!!!! Nah, not really. In all seriousness, if I weren...

  • Melki
    Sep 21, 2014


    Last week, I was dreading seeing my dental hygenist. Not just for the usual reasons - (I brush & floss 3 times a day, yet she has to scrape and scrape with her little implements, and it makes me feel like an unclean swine!) - but, because we always talk about books. I knew she woul...