Beautiful Ruins By Jess Walter

The very beautiful Beautiful Ruins was bought by a friend for my mum for Christmas from the very lovely Forum Books in Corbridge as part of their mystery book range. The book comes wrapped in brown paper with a label (doubling up as a very useful bookmark later) giving a brief description of the book hidden inside. It’s a brilliant way of discovering new books being a total lucky dip.

This particular book was described by the label as “From 1960s Italy to modern day Hollywood – this novel brims with love and life! Bellisimo” Would you have guessed which book was awaiting?

I loved the cover, it’s bold, it stands out, it’s beautiful and the description made me immediately think of another book I had read – The Affair by Gill Paul.  Would it be as good?

It was better, by miles! So good that I actually e-mailed myself various quotes from the book so I could blog about them (very sad I know). The ‘info dump’ we expose ourselves to every morning when we wake up (Twitter interactions, Facebook notifications, news updates, weather and traffic alerts all before we have got out of bed). The endless pitching, not just of films but of a better life (and even death) that’s thrown at us from all angles.

The book flitted about from various perspectives and time lines making it a good ‘summer read’ should you be lying about a pool and wanting to dip in and out as you please. Yet it had great depths which more suited my cold Easter in Scotland. I loved the film idea segments (pitches) being perfect little well written short stories featuring quotes like “we marched up that boot [wartime Italy] like a woman rolling up a stocking“. Yes that was one I e-mailed.

The writing was strong throughout (I particularly loved the reference to the doomed Deane party, the tragic Deane party, I don’t know why it just tickled me) and the plot constantly surprised the reader. You didn’t know where the book was going to go next and although every character was flawed Walter took you with them, you felt they were all struggling for something better just out of their reach.

It was funny, it was sad, it was beautiful, with really really good writing, Elizabeth Taylor and a large cameo from Richard Burton.  If this isn’t already on your to read list make it so. Now.

Oh and who now wants to watch Cleopatra?