The sun. The coast. You are luxuriating in the beautiful descriptions of Porto Vergogna, Italy. But then an American actress enters Pasquali Tursi’s family pensione —the Hotel Adequate View. She enters and leaves mysteriously and we spend the book searching for the beautiful Dee Moray. But in this idyllic setting we become involved in a cast of characters who are not beautiful. They are flawed, searching, trying to make it through their version of life. That search takes us from World War II to the present, from Italy to America and back again in a journey that is pure fun. In Beautiful Ruins, author Jess Walter has woven a story from many stories: an aging producer, his young film student, an angst- ridden author, a half-baked rocker —even Richard Burton gets in on the act. But they are not trite. They are rich with detail that ranges from heartbreaking to laugh-out-loud funny. All are the back story in Pasquali’s quest to find the truth about this young actress. And that is the point. All these flawed, so-called beautiful people, with their lies and self-serving deceits, are searching for what is real. And the author does this with such skill, flipping back and forth in time—which is often a complaint when novelists do this—but here it just re-enforces the mystery and is done expertly. Grab your sunglasses, find a beach and enjoy this perfect beach read that in the end is more than a romp; it is a quest for truth.
Jul 3, 2013