Monday, April 15, 2013

Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter

A glamorous woman in a boat arrives in a tiny forgotten Italian fishing village, and that's all it takes for decades of  amazing, wonderful stories to begin. Right from the start, this book's characters will draw you into their tales: a small town and tiny lives in 1960s Italy, huge stars and over-the-top drama of Hollywood lives now and then, a failed 1990s musician and his vices.

The writing is wonderful, and the multiple storylines braid and weave themselves together at a languid pace. The story glides into the future and back into the past, which mean sometimes we know more than the characters, but not always; sometimes Walter leaves us in the dark for a while, a step or two behind the action. We gradually learn about the in-between-times - when a hole in the timeline begins to fill in - and a couple times I thought "when? wait? tell me about that!" Eventually we do hear it all, and puzzling together the pieces is one of this book's great joys.

I listened to the audiobook, and the narration by Edoardo Ballerini was spectacular. He artfully voices these myriad characters, and his Italian really brought those sections of the book alive for me in a way my own reading would have lacked.

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