Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter
A Novel

83%

50 Critic Reviews

Jess Walter’s Beautiful Ruins would be dandy any time of the year, but literary summer novels don’t get any better than this.
-Toronto Star

Synopsis

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
 

About Jess Walter

See more books from this Author
Jess Walter is the author of the national bestseller The Financial Lives of the Poets, the National Book Award finalist The Zero, the Edgar Award-winning Citizen Vince, Land of the Blind, and the New York Times Notable Book Over Tumbled Graves. He lives in Spokane, Washington, with his family.
 
Published June 12, 2012 by Harper. 354 pages
Genres: Other, Literature & Fiction, History, Romance. Fiction
Bestseller Status:
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Peak Rank on Apr 06 2014
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Weeks as Bestseller
Bookmark Counts:
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Critic reviews for Beautiful Ruins
All: 50 | Positive: 43 | Negative: 7

Kirkus

Excellent
on May 16 2012

...simply put, Walter’s prose is a joy—funny, brash, witty and rich with ironic twists. He’s taken all of the tricks of the postmodern novel and scoured out the cynicism, making for a novel that's life-affirming but never saccharine.

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NY Times

Excellent
Reviewed by Helen Schulman on Jul 06 2012

Any reservations the reader might have about another book about Hollywood, about selling one’s soul...will probably be swept aside by this high-wire feat of bravura storytelling.

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NY Times

Above average
Reviewed by Janet Maslin on Jun 07 2012

Mr. Walter has built his book around “Cleopatra” as a monument to crazy love.

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Guardian

Below average
Reviewed by Rosalind Porter on Jun 14 2013

The fine writing and its engagement with the Big Subjects...signal its ambitions to be more than a sophisticated beach book, yet everything feels loosely sketched. It's impossible to care about any of the characters because we are rushed in and out of their lives, their relationships are too predictable, and they are flattened by cliche.

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Guardian

Excellent
Reviewed by LUCY SCHOLES on Jun 01 2013

Walter creates an epic all of his own here – one that took him 15 years to write. The end result, however, is well worth the wait.

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Guardian

Below average
Reviewed by Rosalind Porter on Jun 15 2013

But despite the novel's ambitious plotting, its clever weaving of fact with fiction, its satirical stabs at the film and television industry...it fails at being either a fun page-turner or a more erudite, literary read.

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Guardian

Good
Reviewed by LUCY SCHOLES on Jun 01 2013

Walter creates an epic all of his own here – one that took him 15 years to write. The end result, however, is well worth the wait.

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Publishers Weekly

Excellent
Reviewed by Publisher's Weekly on May 14 2012

Quirky and entertaining tale of greed, treachery, and love.

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NPR

Above average
Reviewed by Kevin Roose on Jan 24 2014

There's a love story in Beautiful Ruins, and it's a good one. But the sharpest parts of the book are the ones that explore the space that film and TV occupy in our world...

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NPR

Good
Reviewed by Maureen Corrigan on Jun 18 2012

This novel is a standout not just because of the inventiveness of its plot, but also because of its language. Jess Walter is essentially a comic writer...

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Star Tribune

Excellent
Reviewed by Mark Athitakis on Jun 16 2012

...the verve and enthusiasm of this novel, from its let's-go-everywhere structure to the comedy in the marrow of its sentences, are wholly life-affirming.

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Book Reporter

Excellent
Reviewed by Shelby Wardlaw on Aug 02 2012

Stories of utter despair or rigid victory die quickly in our collective consciousness, but it’s the tale of the beautiful ruin that endures.

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Toronto Star

Good
Reviewed by Patricia Hluchy on Jun 23 2012

Jess Walter’s Beautiful Ruins would be dandy any time of the year, but literary summer novels don’t get any better than this.

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Entertainment Weekly

Excellent
Reviewed by Leah Greenblatt on Jun 13 2012

...a novel whose decade- and continent-hopping ingenuity expertly scratches the seasonal itch for both literary depth and dazzle.

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The Washington Post

Below average
Reviewed by Allegra Goodman on Jun 18 2012

There are glitches. At times, Walter extends a moment two or three beats too long...At other times, Walter’s dialogue lands heavily

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The Boston Globe

Excellent
Reviewed by Steve Almond on Jun 10 2012

Walter has planted himself firmly in the first rank of American authors. He has crafted a novel with pathos, piercing wit and, most important, the generous soul of a literary classic.

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San Francisco Chronicle

Excellent
Reviewed by Tom Nolan on Jul 20 2012

...the book brings several figures together in the fullness of time, all united in a quest for answers to a host of questions big and little, cosmic and personal.

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The Seattle Times

Excellent
Reviewed by Mary Ann Gwinn on Jun 24 2012

Beneath Walter's black comic's mask beats the brain of an ethical philosopher and the heart of a romantic. Not everyone in "Beautiful Ruins" gets what they want. But they do get what they need.

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Oregon Live

Excellent
Reviewed by Jeff Baker on Jun 23 2012

It's so obvious that Walter's having so much fun with this stuff that it becomes infectious.

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Review (Barnes & Noble)

Excellent
Reviewed by Katherine Powers on Jun 29 2012

...Walter's sardonic wit and mischievous intelligence shine out to the very end.

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Newsday

Excellent
Reviewed by Tom Beer on Jul 05 2012

...a novel with a live, beating heart, full of sympathy for its characters and a gut wisdom about "all those lovely wrecked lives." You'll want to explore these "Ruins."

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Watermark Books And Cafe

Below average
Reviewed by Todd Robins

Jess Walter's novel, "Beautiful Ruins," is entertaining, but the work seems scattered because the author has so many people and narrative styles running through it that the reader loses sight of a main character.

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Paste

Excellent
Reviewed by David Langness on Aug 07 2012

Jess Walter has written a novel that...gazes into the deep humor of our collective human condition. That’s what good satire does—it reminds us who we really are. Humans.

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Los Angeles Review of Books

Excellent
Reviewed by Christopher Bollen on Jul 17 2012

Walter is a prodigiously gifted writer. His sentences nearly sing, given long leashes to wind through Italian coasts and deep in the muck of Edinburgh comedy clubs without any fear that they will run off.

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Persephone Magazine

Excellent
Reviewed by Sara Habein on Aug 10 2012

Jess Walter is one of those writers that makes you conscious of your delight. You know you are in the presence of something great — not just a great story that holds your interest, but great writing.

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Englewood Review of Books

Excellent
Reviewed by Timothy Stege on Jul 01 2012

Jess Walter took a genuine risk with Beautiful Ruins.

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Willamette Week

Excellent
Reviewed by Matt Buckingham on Jun 27 2012

Beautiful Ruins is alternately poignant and laugh-out-loud funny as Walter demonstrates a dynamic range and a flawless ear for the distinctive voices of his characters.

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Vol. 1 Brooklyn

Excellent
Reviewed by Joe Winkler on Jul 13 2012

Walter separates himself, with success, from the prevailing literary trend. 

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Thrive Detroit

Excellent
Reviewed by Laurie Fundukian on Oct 02 2012

Walter captures these characters’ ruins and weaves them in with the ruins of setting in a masterful piece of storytelling.

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High Country News

Excellent
Reviewed by Jenny Shank on Aug 20 2012

Beautiful Ruins, brimming with the joyful, sorrowful and absurd clutter of life, might be his best yet.

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Citylife

Excellent
Reviewed by Tod Goldberg on Jul 06 2012

...this novel shows an author in full bloom, able in the final pages to bring the reader to tears of sadness and happiness within just a few words of each other.

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Charleston City Paper

Excellent
Reviewed by Jade Whitman

Beautiful Ruins is a riveting book about the connections between strangers, family members, and lovers. Jess Walter's style of writing kept us hooked from the very beginning.

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That's What She Read

Good
Reviewed by Michelle on Aug 28 2012

It is not a novel that will haunt a reader for days or even for weeks but is a perfect summer novel.

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Lit Stack

Good
Reviewed by Sharon Browning on Aug 01 2012

I found reading Beautiful Ruins to be relaxing yet engaging, like the best of vacation getaways.

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Lit Lovers

Good
Reviewed by Lit Lovers on Aug 01 2012

Life in this stunning new novel, set primarily in Hollywood and Italy, is made up of moments of startling clarity—moments capable of changing lives.

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Write Meg

Good
Reviewed by Megan on Jun 20 2012

It’s one of the best books I’ve read this year.

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Of Books and Reading

Good
Reviewed by thehungryreader on May 31 2012

“Beautiful Ruins” is a beautifully composed, philosophically written and highly entertaining novel.

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Bookfan

Good
Reviewed by Mary on Aug 21 2012

I enjoyed Beautiful Ruins so much I knew it would be on my 2012 Favorites list as soon as I finished reading it.

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A Musing Reviews

Good
Reviewed by A Musing Reviews on Jun 12 2012

I just truly enjoyed the richly painted canvas of word scenery imprinted on my mind.

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It's Either Sadness or Euphoria

Above average
Reviewed by Larry on Jun 17 2012

While the shifting of time and place became a little confusing once the book added settings beyond Italy and Hollywood, I fell in love with the story. I found this beautifully written and utterly compelling, the stuff of nostalgia. Definitely read this.

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Reading In Winter

Good
Reviewed by Kristilyn on Jul 13 2012

Honestly, I wish I could read more books like this!

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A Bookish Affair

Good
Reviewed by Meg on Jun 15 2012

Bottom line: This is a great book when you just want to get totally and utterly lost.

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Tony's Book World

Below average
Reviewed by Anokatony on Sep 23 2012

While reading, I kept a running count of all the original thoughts and authentic feelings that are contained in “Beautiful Ruins”.  The final count was zero.

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The Savvy Reader

Good
Reviewed by Cory Beatty on Aug 01 2012

If I recommend one book to you this year, it’ll be this one.

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The Book Garden

Good
Reviewed by Anne on Jun 18 2012

By the end I was smiling and I am so very glad I got the chance to read this amazing book.

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Paper Plates

Good
Reviewed by Amy Cavanaugh on Sep 17 2012

Walter’s writing feels effortless, but he captures idealism, heartbreak, and love with precision and humor.

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Book Brothel

Above average
Reviewed by Lisa Yanaky on Aug 08 2012

Walter does a good job jumping around in time periods and from character to character...There are places during the book that fall a little flat, tone-wise. There's a feeling, more so in the current-day setting, that Walter didn't have a full grip on his characters, especially the females.

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Rachel Lohrman

Good
Reviewed by Rachel Lohrman on Oct 05 2012

This was a captivating story that I recommend to anyone who can withstand a little crudeness to get to the heart of a truly great story told in a unique manner. 

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Jim's Blog

Good
Reviewed by Jim on Aug 27 2012

I was moved by the book, and I suspect that the story was more powerful having many years of my life in my past.

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Mermama

Excellent
Reviewed by T. Greenwood on Jul 31 2012

I was absolutely captivated by these intertwined stories which lead, ultimately, to one of the most beautiful, lyrical final chapters I have ever read. It is reminiscent of nothing...entirely original. A new favorite.

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Reader Rating for Beautiful Ruins
73%

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