Jess Walter’s Beautiful Ruins is climbing the bestseller lists, and may well be the perfect summer novel. A great read for both men and women, smart but accessible, filled with humour, wit and great characterizations, this charming story may well put Jess Walter on your must-read list.
The setting is 1962, in a small Italian fishing village. Hollywood starlet, Dee Moray, has been unceremoniously ejected from the set of Cleopatra (a film that plays a role in the plot) and meets Pasquale, owner of the Adequate View Hotel. He falls in love immediately (as you’ll see in the excerpt below), but she eventually leaves – and Pasquale cannot follow. Many years later, the elderly Pasquale visits America, in search of Dee.
Walter’s novel flashes between Italy of the 1960’s and the Hollywood of today, but this is much more than a Hollywood novel. Emotional, sentimental, but never sappy, Beautiful Ruins will charm you.
You’ll laugh out loud, but this novel is much more than only a comedy – our friends at Harper Collins have shared an excerpt to give you a feel for this exceptional novel.
She was impossibly thin, and yet amply curved, the beautiful American. From Pasquale’s vantage in the sea—sun flickering behind her, wind snapping her wheat-blond hair—it was as if she were another species, taller and more ethereal than any woman he’d ever seen. Orenzio offered her a hand, and after a moment of hesitation she took it. He helped her from his boat onto the narrow pier.
“Thank you,” came an uncertain voice from beneath the hat, and then, “Grazie,” the Italian word breathy and unpracticed. She took her first step toward the village, seemed to stagger a moment, and then regained her balance. It was then that she pulled the hat off to get a look at the village, and Pasquale saw her full features and was mildly surprised the beautiful American wasn’t . . . well . . . more beautiful.
Oh, she was striking, certainly, but not in the way he’d expected. First, she was as tall as Pasquale, nearly six feet. And from where he stood, weren’t her features a bit too much for such a narrow face—plunging jawline so pronounced, mouth so full, eyes so round and open that she seemed startled? And could a woman be too thin, so that her curves seemed sudden, alarming? Her long hair was pulled back into a ponytail and her skin was lightly tanned, drawn tight over features that were somehow at once too sharp and too soft—nose too delicate for such a chin, for such high cheeks, for those big dark eyes. No, he thought, while she was striking, this was no great beauty.
But then she turned directly to him, and the disparate features of her drastic face came together as a single, perfect thing, and Pasquale recalled from his studies how some buildings in Florence could disappoint from various angles and yet always presented well in relief, always photographed well; that the various vantages were made to be composed; and so, too, he thought, some people. Then she smiled, and in that instant, if such a thing were possible, Pasquale fell in love, and he would remain in love for the rest of his life—not so much with the woman, whom he didn’t even know, but with the moment.
Excerpted from the book Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter.
Copyright © 2012 by Jess Walter.
Reprinted with permission of Harper Collins Canada.