Beautiful Ruins, Jess Walter


My favourite novel of 2013 (so far).

Upon finishing this book, I felt like I’d read a 1,000 pages, not 300- and not because it dragged, but because I felt that I’d actually accompanied the characters throughout the novel’s 50-odd year time-span.  It was epic in a very neat and manageable sense, giving me just the information I was curious about and nothing ineffectual. The stories layered on top of each other, giving it the rich texture I seek when reading: Not only do you read about a movie pitch happening- there is an entire chapter dedicated to the relaying of it, giving you the same perspective as the movie exec.  (It reminded me a little of The Gamal in this way)

Also fascinating was the mixture of fiction and non-fiction. This somehow seemed to give the fiction a strange credibility, slotting seamlessly in with the reality of Liz and Dick’s tumultuous relationship during the filming of Cleopatra. (As soon as this post is up, I am going to skip out and buy the film so that I can watch through squinted eyes for hints of pent-up passion.)

Right, well, I really can’t find anything negative to say. *taps skull aggressively*

So I strongly dislike this cover. I have linked it rather than tainting this post with a picture of it. (I am a harsh critic of book covers)

It’s too frilly. The UK paperback cover is perfect though… (see above its loveliness)


Back to positives before I tap a hole in my head…

Even the title is masterful, Walter had some other options (revealed in the interview at the back of the book) but Beautiful Ruins could not suit it more. Not only because of the imagery it conjures of Porto Vergogna but also in the sense that it can be applied to each and every character.

Yeah, this is just a damn fine book.


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