Publisher Weekly - Best Books of 2012

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Beautiful Ruins (2012)

Written by Jess Walter

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.  

The story begins in 1962. On a rocky patch of the sun-drenched Italian coastline, a young innkeeper, chest-deep in daydreams, looks out over the incandescent waters of the Ligurian Sea and spies an apparition: a tall, thin woman, a vision in white, approaching him on a boat. She is an actress, he soon learns, an American starlet, and she is dying.

And the story begins again today, half a world away, when an elderly Italian man shows up on a movie studio's back lot—searching for the mysterious woman he last saw at his hotel decades earlier.

What unfolds is a dazzling, yet deeply human, roller coaster of a novel, spanning fifty years and nearly as many lives. From the lavish set of Cleopatra to the shabby revelry of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Walter introduces us to the tangled lives of a dozen unforgettable characters: the starstruck Italian innkeeper and his long-lost love; the heroically preserved producer who once brought them together and his idealistic young assistant; the army veteran turned fledgling novelist and the rakish Richard Burton himself, whose appetites set the whole story in motion—along with the husbands and wives, lovers and dreamers, superstars and losers, who populate their world in the decades that follow.

Gloriously inventive, constantly surprising, Beautiful Ruins is a story of flawed yet fascinating people, navigating the rocky shores of their lives while clinging to their improbable dreams. (Copyright © Harper. All rights reserved.)

Source:  HarperCollins Publishers.

Jess Walter is the author of six novels and one nonfiction book. The Financial Lives of Poets was Time Magazine’s #2 novel of the year for 2009; The Zero was a finalist for the 2006 National Book Award and winner of the LA Times Book Prize; and Citizen Vince was winner of the Edgar Allen Poe Award for best novel. He has been a finalist for the L.A. Times Book Prize and the PEN USA Literary Prize in both fiction and nonfiction. His books have been New York Times, Washington Post, and NPR best books of the year and have been translated into twenty languages.

His essays, short fiction, criticism and journalism have been widely published in Best American Short Stories, Best American Nonrequired Reading, Harper’s, Esquire, McSweeney’s, Byliner, Playboy, ESPN the Magazine, Details and many others.

Jess Walter lives with his wife Anne and children in his childhood home of Spokane, Washington.

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