Wednesday, April 03, 2013

First Wednesday Book Review Club: Beautiful Ruins, Jesse Walter

BEAUTIFUL RUINS by Jesse Walter does a very smooth job of juggling multiple narrative set in multiple time periods. We always know where we are and whom we are with. The prose is elegant, the scenes in Italy inviting. If that small village doesn't exist, it should thanks to the writing here.

The disaster that was CLEOPATRA was being made in the main narrative. A young actress in the film, believing herself to be dying, comes to a remote island where she is tended to by Pasquale, a young Italian hotel owner of a hotel so small that she is the only guest. Other stories intersect with this one.(Richard Burton is a minor player that we never see without a bottle in his hand. Surely we have something else to learn about him).Pasquale is being shaken down for protection money, but this story is also not developed.

Unfortunately many of the other minor characters in BEAUTIFUL RUINS didn't capture my interest and I was anxious to get back to the primary story rather than these less interesting ones.The book I would have loved would have focused on the young actress, the young hotel owner, and the circumstances of 1962. Of course it was not my story to tell.

We see the actress at various points in her life, but because they are not chronological it is often hard to invest in them. We also come to know her son, an producer's assistant, a writer trying to pitch a story, the producer himself who meddles again and again to disastrous consequences. Flash forward into the future and the romanticism of that small island in Italy is lost. If Hollywood is supposed to come alive, it never does. We know just how venal Hollywood is from so many other examinations. And the scenes in Spokane are even less involving.

This was certainly far from a bad book. But the pages didn't turn effortlessly.
I listened to this on audio. Perhaps that distanced me.

For more book reviews, see Barrie Summy. 

I WAS GONE WHEN MYSTERICALE debuted. My story BLESSING YOU AND YOUR FAMILY is in there along with lots of other good things to read.  


George said...

Listening to audio books is a completely different experience than reading for me. The audio book has plenty of variables: narrator, length (and number) of the tracks on the CDs, etc.

David Cranmer said...

"... always know where we are and whom we are with" is very important in plots like this. Thanks for the review, Patti.

Scott D. Parker said...

The book I reviewed today was one I listened to. It followed two protagonists and, what made it actually pretty easy to follow--especially in audio--was that each chapter was titled by the hero in question. Thus, you had "Miller" or "Holden" ahead of each chapter. That way, I knew exactly the POV of the chapter.

Sarah Laurence said...

Excellent review. I was on the fence about this book and now I'll probably pass. I like audio books in the car but it's best to pick ones with easy to follow narratives. Ones I've enjoyed: 3 Cups of Tea and An Object of Beauty.

Anonymous said...

Patti, just read your story. I liked it a lot. I think that we think more about the past as we get older. I know I do.

Jeff M.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Did you get Sally Star Theater in New York, Jeff. I bet it was just a Philly thing.

Anonymous said...

I think it was just Philadelphia because I don't remember it.

Jeff M.