Pasquale Tursi has a dream, to create a beautiful hotel in his small Italian seaside village, one that would bring rich American tourists and movie stars to play tennis on his cliffside court and lounge on his created beach. So imagine his surprise when an American actress leaves the set of Cleopatra and sails right to Pasquale. Dee is ill and seeks refuge at Pasquale’s family hotel. The boy who dreams big now finds himself not only in his own family drama, but in the middle of one of Hollywood’s biggest scandals – the love affair of Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor. This is only the beginning of the intrigue in Jess Walter’s Beautiful Ruins.
Pasquale and Dee’s story alone might be enough to fill the pages of a novel, but Walter adds more layers to this book by jumping forward to the present day as Claire, an assistant to a major Hollywood producer, finds herself wanting to leave the business because she is not making movies that matter. Then add one more story, the failing man-child musician Pat, who ruins every relationship he touches.
There is a lot going on with this book (and not just the jumping in time between post war Italy, WWII and the present day) and with that, I found it a little uneven and at times trying a little too hard adding more and more layers that made the book somewhat clunky (there are actually a few more storylines that I haven’t even included here). So when I finished, I wound up someplace that I wasn’t really expecting when I loaded this book with the beautiful cover on my Kindle. Not that it is a bad thing to get something unexpected, and I really appreciate some of the different ways Walter took in telling so many stories. It just seemed a little much, but all in all an interesting and definitely well-written read that is so much more than an Italian seaside Hollywood scandal story.