READ THIS! {Beautiful Ruins}

Every once in awhile, I read a book that stops me in my tracks, finds a special path to my heart, and makes me happy that books like this exist; January's READ THIS! novel, Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter is exactly that book.

Does that seem a bit cheesy? A little bit too much praise? Then you haven't read Beautiful Ruins yet. I finished this breathtaking novel last night, and sat frozen in awe, no movement except for the tears streaming down my face, struck by the honesty and beauty within this story.

Amazon describes this novel as, "The story begins in 1962. On a rocky patch of the sun-drenched Italian coastline, a young innkeeper, chest-deep in daydreams, looks out over the incandescent waters of the Ligurian Sea and spies an apparition: a tall, thin woman, a vision in white, approaching him on a boat. She is an actress, he soon learns, an American starlet, and she is dying. And the story begins again today, half a world away, when an elderly Italian man shows up on a movie studio's back lot—searching for the mysterious woman he last saw at his hotel decades earlier. What unfolds is a dazzling, yet deeply human, roller coaster of a novel, spanning fifty years and nearly as many lives. From the lavish set of Cleopatra to the shabby revelry of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Walter introduces us to the tangled lives of a dozen unforgettable characters: the starstruck Italian innkeeper and his long-lost love; the heroically preserved producer who once brought them together and his idealistic young assistant; the army veteran turned fledgling novelist and the rakish Richard Burton himself, whose appetites set the whole story in motion—along with the husbands and wives, lovers and dreamers, superstars and losers, who populate their world in the decades that follow. Gloriously inventive, constantly surprising, Beautiful Ruins is a story of flawed yet fascinating people, navigating the rocky shores of their lives while clinging to their improbable dreams."

I bolded my favorite parts of this description:

"... dazzling, yet deeply human ..."

"Gloriously inventive, constantly surprising, [...] a story of flawed yet fascinating people, navigating the rocky shores of their lives while clinging to their improbable dreams."

This novel brings to you the beauty of the Italian coastline, reminds you that the stories of our lives never truly end, and allows us to imagine a piece of Hollywood that once existed and gives us hope that that piece of Hollywood may return again. In Beautiful Ruins, you fall in love with Pasquale, and his dreams become yours and within moments of meeting him, you are hearing the Italian roll off of his tongue, and you are beginning to plan your own dream trip to his Hotel Adequate View. And once you've met Pasquale, and quickly fallen head over heels, it's all over for you - you are officially sucked in to this world that Walter has created. Until you finish the last word of the last line, Walter has allowed you to believe that you are seeing a glimpse into the incredible lives of the characters he has created, and once you close the book, you are suddenly brought back to reality, and, even if you are crying already, you will suddenly surprise yourself with the new steady stream of tears, the sheer amazement and wonder that you are so lucky to have read such an incredible work of art.

Oh, you're not a crier? Well, just me then. On the crying. But everything else? It's universal. This is one of the books that stays with you and I urge you to pick it up, if you have not already.

Did you read along with me this month? Did you fall in love with Pasquale and Dee, Claire and Shane, Pat and Lydia? Maybe even Michael Deane? Do you also want to learn Italian and go sail up the Italian coast line? Did you maybe not love this quite as much as I did? Did you think it tried to do too much or follow too many characters? Either way - I'd love to hear your thoughts! 

Now, are you ready for February's READ THIS! selection? Inspired by February's lovey-dovey holiday, the book this month is Paris in Love: A Memoir by Eloise James...

Amazon describes this work as, "In 2009, New York Times bestselling author Eloisa James took a leap that many people dream about: she sold her house, took a sabbatical from her job as a Shakespeare professor, and moved her family to Paris. Paris in Love: A Memoir chronicles her joyful year in one of the most beautiful cities in the world. With no classes to teach, no committee meetings to attend, no lawn to mow or cars to park, Eloisa revels in the ordinary pleasures of life—discovering corner museums that tourists overlook, chronicling Frenchwomen’s sartorial triumphs, walking from one end of Paris to another. She copes with her Italian husband’s notions of quality time; her two hilarious children, ages eleven and fifteen, as they navigate schools—not to mention puberty—in a foreign language; and her mother-in-law Marina’s raised eyebrow in the kitchen (even as Marina overfeeds Milo, the family dog). Paris in Love invites the reader into the life of a most enchanting family, framed by la ville de l’amour."

For the record, now, before I even read this, I will say that I am sure that this book will make me want to, at the very least, visit Paris again. I am so excited to read this memoir and I hope that you will join me in doing so! 




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