Review: Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter

Beautiful Ruins definitely did not tell the story that I was expecting it to when I found the Penguin Paperback sitting on the shelves at Dymocks. This heavily detailed and enticing novel opens in the early 1960s with a young Italian man who is trying to turn his family-owned business into a thriving hotel. A young actress who is dying of stomach cancer quite literally appears in the ocean one day, setting off a chain of events that will span continents and the course of the next forty years. And then we meet some eccentric characters, the narrative goes back and forth between Italy in the 1960s and modern day America and every character in the book seems to be another character in another persons film, book or life story. It is a complex tale that took the author fifteen years to write (or as he puts it in the interview at the back, it took him two to three years of actual writing with lots of breaks in between). This one is too eccentric to be a favourite and too well written for me to hate it. Which leaves me precisely nowhere and with a review that tells potential readers absolutely nothing. And that seems kind of fitting, all things considered ...

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