I’ve read some wonderful books lately; however, for my first installment of Current Read Monday, I’ve got a book I’m really not crazy about. The book is called Beautiful Ruins, and it’s written by Jess Walter. I waited several months for a digital copy to become available from my library, and now that I’ve got it, I can’t seem to get through it. I’ll admit that the first thing that drew me to this book was its cover (look at that idyllic coastline), but the book’s blurb reeled me in too.
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.
Sounds pretty great right? The part I’m struggling with is the amount of characters and time periods the book contains. Just when you get interested in a character’s storyline, the chapter ends and you’re sent in a different direction. I’m sure this was done very purposely. It keeps you reading to find out what happens to those characters later, but it’s a bit frustrating. There are also some slow and tedious sections that I just don’t care for. I’m 49% of the way through the book at this point, and I hope I’m not still reading this book next Monday!
The beautiful cover got me this time! Have you had a similar experience where the book’s cover was better than its contents?