|The cover of the book makes it look like it was published in the 1960s.|
|This is what I picture when I hear the word ruins.|
As I listened to the audiobook flawlessly performed by Edoardo Bellerini I was transported by the symbolism in the prose. So many images of ruins came to mind. If I was a college writing professor I'd want to teach this book, encouraging my students to explore all the ways that Walter played with the concept of ruins within its pages. Bellerini was the perfect voice actor for the job, too. He obviously knew his Italian but he could read the American voices without a hint of an accent. I am sure that his performance is partially responsible for how much I enjoyed the book.
|A home in the Cinque Terre area of Itay|
The opening setting is Porto Vergogna, Italy. A tiny (made up) fishing village clinging to the cliffs of the Cinque Terra and a hotel called The Hotel Adequate View.
|Homes which seem to cling to the cliffs.|
A beautiful actress, Dee Moray, mistakenly finds her way to the hotel to take a few days break from the filming of Cleopatra in Rome starring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton.
Pasquales entertained the unwieldy thought that he'd somehow summoned her, that after years of living in the place, after months of grief and loneliness and waiting for Americans, he'd created this woman from old bits of cinema and books, from the lost artifacts and ruins of his dreams.Later Dee Moray confides in Pasquale (the innkeeper):
She tossed her hair back. 'Oh no. I've been thinking about how people sit around for years waiting for their lives to begin, right? Like a movie. You know what I mean? ... I think some people wait forever, and only at the end of their lives do they realize that their life has happened while they were waiting for it to start. Do you know what I mean, Pasquale?'Hollywood, and the phoniness of the people in it, is introduced to the reader by this actress but then these people have their own stories.
|Richard Burton as Anthony in Cleopatra.|
|Elizabeth Taylor as Cleopatra|
[Dick] Cavett's four great interviews with Richard Burton were done in 1980...Burton, fifty-four at the time, and already a beautiful ruin, were mesmerizing. (-"Talk Story" by Louis Menand, The New Yorker, November 22, 2010).Elizabeth Taylor only makes a cameo appearance in the book but Burton is a character and we meet him through Pasquale's eyes.
Richard Burton had removed his sunglasses and given a wry smile. He was about Pasquale's height, with thick sideburns, tousled brown hair, and a cleft chin. he had the sharpest features Pasquale had ever seen, as if his face had been sculpted in separate pieces and then assembled on-site.Beautiful Ruins, the title and the theme of the whole book is beautifully summarized here while Pasquale is having to confront his shattered life.
The world was fractured, broken in so many ways that Pasquale could barely conceive which shard to reach for...The pieces of his broken life lay on the ground before him like a mirror that had always stared back, but which had now broken to reveal the life behind it.Obviously I really liked this book and hope that this review encourages others to read it. I've actually become quite obsessed with the whole concept of ruins and spent many hours this week sifting through many mental images of ruins. Now I challenge you to share with me what pictures are conjured up when you read it.
Disclaimer:All quotes were from Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter, HarperAudio, 2012. Audio CD borrowed from public library.