Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Beautiful Ruins


Jess Walter's latest novel is part homage to grand films of the past, and part coming of age for adults.  Two main plotlines and times tell the story of a rising star of the 1960s and her time spent in a small port city in Italy; interwoven is the modern tale of a woman who has her dream job in film development, but has to work for a man who makes truly awful movies.  One day, a man shows up in the movie studio she works in, asking for her boss and dredging up memories of a past that will teach everyone the importance of making the right choices and second chances. 
The amazing part of this novel is that both stories are equally compelling: Pasquel, an Italian 20-something who has moved back to his small hometown to care for his mother after his father passes away, is enthralled by the visiting beauty, Dee, on respite from her filming obligations for Cleopatra; in the current day, Claire, who works for legendary producer Michael Deane, longs to find that one project she can truly believe in, and meets Pasqual by happenstance on a day when her boss is out of the office.  Pasqual spends his life in a state of penance for missing his father's death, leaving behind his love in Florence, not doing enough to help the ailing Dee when she comes to his small hotel.  He's a wonderful character, and your heart will just ache for him as he matures throughout the novel.  Claire's faith in creativity and even romance is fading at the beginning of her story, and she needs to actually see something work out for the best to maintain her happiness.  Michael Deane is a less likable character, but necessary and the most stereotypical of the novel. 
This isn't a book that will change your life, but it is interesting to read the non-fiction woven into the novel (Richard Burton and Liz Taylor make appearances) and Walter keeps the pace brisk.  Would be a great summer read!

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