My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Goodreads: The acclaimed, award-winning author of the national bestseller The Financial Lives of the Poets returns with his funniest, most romantic, and most purely enjoyable novel yet: the story of an almost-love affair that begins on the Italian coast in 1962 . . . and is rekindled in Hollywood fifty years later.
“Why mince words? Beautiful Ruins is an absolute masterpiece.” —Richard Russo
“A ridiculously talented writer.” —New York Times
My thoughts: I am still digesting this book and knowing I am missing so many metaphors while still wondering about the beautiful ruins, although as I am typing this, the beautiful ruins are in every character, every location, and every described act. Although the language, and description are gorgeous, the stories of each protagonist compelling, I did not see the link so clearly until Shane gives his pitch for DONNER! That's when the connections began forming for me, although I now see the stories which eventually come to a perfect climax at the same point in time while the marginal stories are quickly summarized in endings that could have been any ending at all, the characters each mirror one another for their beautiful and hopeful lives turned quickly by decisions made. They also differ in perspective. While one character's decision alters his or her course indelibly and can be viewed as ruined, another perspective is that the character made the choice with good intentions with varied results. Yet each character has at least one moment of clarity regarding the need to change course to be more balanced with their ethics.
This is not to say that all characters carry the same ethical standards. In fact, some are very divergent from the norm.
I am still struggling with the understanding the true message of the book so I can offer very little insight. At the same time, I feel like I have travelled a good journey. I have been to parts of Italy I did not physically see whe I was there. I also was a first hand witness to the golden age of Hollywood where there were movie stars and not merely actors and actresses. But I was not a witness to this time period in real life. Elizabeth Taylor has always been a has-been with far too many ex-husbands and a regular drama queen. Well, that was true in 1962, as well.
I just truly enjoyed the richly painted canvas of word scenery imprinted on my mind. I somehow grew to care about each of the characters because they were succinctly developed and stayed true. Even the scene where Lugo shoots Pelle in the foot after intimidating a major character and Valeria, knowing Pelle is bad news, drops her veneer to wrap the foot - it was still consistent with Valeria's character and highly entertaining.
This is an adult book. Expect exceptionally strong language, some sex, a grade deal of alcohol and some drug abuse.
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*I received a free copy of this book from publishing company in exchange for an honest review. The opinions expressed here are my own.