what i read this winter: beautiful ruins by jess walter

beautiful runis jess walter

We can just start with the cover! Having been to Italy myself, the cover just brought me back to such a beautiful scene. I imagined myself back on a boat in the harbor with a slight breeze blowing while listening to some romantic and unfamiliar music, sipping on only the best wine, with good friends and an array of Italian cheeses and accompaniments.

So to the actual book… I had never been a real avid reader but I have been going through a season in life of reflection and leaving about myself. I figured it was a good time to pick up a great book. After reading multiple reviews online, this book choice was ideal. The idea of Italy mixed with that beautiful cover made it a pretty easy sell for me.

Of course, when I finished the book and sat down to write this review, I was stuck. The entire book was a mix of SO MANY THINGS. First of all, there’s travel, music, books, movie pitches, acting, movie stars, relationships, Hollywood, Italy, Italian thugs — just to name a few. Second of all, there’s romance, humour, sadness, whimsy, longing, love, etc. And third of all, there’s a HUGE cast of characters.

Now, one would think that there would be way too many things to keep track of, but in a weird way, it all works. From the first few pages of the book,  when you meet Pasquale, a young Italian man with dreams of building a beach in front of his hotel, I was hooked. I loved the dreamy quality of Pasquale’s character. He’s a lover of life, a big dreamer. In fact, a lot of the characters in the book are big dreamers — at least, all the main characters are. That’s one of the wonderful things about the book — not only does it take the reader away to a different place, to different scenery, but it forces the reader to dream along with the characters, which is an amazing thing.

The thing that really got me with this book was the fact that every single character had a role, an important role, and even though the cast was huge, it wasn’t hard at all to keep track of who everyone was. There was also a really wonderful blend of romance and whimsy, hilarity and sadness — all of which fit together so perfectly and which really made me want to turn the pages faster.

Jess Walter is a pretty amazing writer. I loved how he constantly kept me on my toes as he flipped from Italy in 1962, to Hollywood in the present day, to a book chapter, to a play, to … so many other things! At every chapter end, I didn’t know what to expect next. The passing of time, the mix of old-time whimsy with new-age conveniences, the constant message of patience — it just all worked. Ultimately, the best story of the book to me, at least, was the story of Pasquale, which was the most romantic and dreamy story of them all.

Honestly, I wish I could read more books like this! When I turned the last page, I was so happy to feel content. No loose ends — but just one question left hanging in the air. Of course, if you want to know that, you’ll have to read it yourself!

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