I have, at times, been guilty of reading a book just because I liked its cover, and Beautiful Ruins is one of them. I saw it in Barnes and Noble, and it looked interesting enough. Once I saw some decent reviews, I figured I’d get to it. After Stoner, I needed some light reading, and Beautiful Ruins fit the bill, though it’s not really my kind of book.
It’s about three main characters (and a host of others): Pasquale, an Italian who owns a small hotel in a tiny, obscure village; Dee, an actress/drama teacher; and Michael Deane, a Hollywood movie producer. Pasquale’s dream is to have Americans flock to his little hotel (only one American, a sometimes-author, shows up once a year) when Dee appears, bringing the drama of Hollywood with her. That’s 1962 – but the novel pops back and forth between then and now and several places in between. It also involves others, including Richard Burton and his (fictional) illegitimate kid. Things, of course, Happen.
Beautiful Ruins is an okay book. I enjoyed it well enough. It’s not bad. But I don’t have much to say about it, either. It’s certainly a lighter read than Stoner. As I said earlier, it’s not my kind of book – it’s under the literary heading, and I guess it is, but it’s somewhere between good fiction and pop fiction. Everything is tied up to nicely at the end, and Jess Walter seems to emulate Milan Kundera’s Unbearable Lightness of Being-type feel-good crap. I hate that book.
Anyway, Beautiful Ruins isn’t a bad novel, though I won’t be seeking out anything else Jess Walter writes because it’s the sort of beach-read, pretty-ending type of book, and my interest is almost zero.