Thursday, February 21, 2013

Beautiful Ruins

Beautiful Ruins
Rating 5
Beautiful Ruins
A Novel by Jess Walter
2013 Tournament of Books

Audiobook narrarated by
Edoardo Ballerini
2012/ 12 hours 53 min
Goodreads Synopsis

Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter is a surprise. I love the beautiful cover and will not forget seeing it for the first time at Square Books in Oxford, MS during Booktopia. I figured I would eventually read the book and assumed it was a book about living on the coast of Italy. When it was announced that the book was chosen for the Tournament of Books, I knew I would definitely read it - no question about it. As I was trying to read all of the ToB books, I decided to listen to this one on audio.  Thus, I never read the synopsis on the jacket cover nor on Goodreads. I went into the book blind.  I had no idea how complex and wonderful this book would be. It is about living on the coast of Italy but it is so much more!

The book is so good and so brilliantly crafted, that I don't want to give anything away.  I don't want to say too much here, yet at the same time, I want to share the wonderful layers this book has to offer.  

The book takes place over several different time periods.  Primarily in 1962 and in the present, but it dips into the 1940s toward the end of WWII and it dabbles in the years between 1962 and the present.  The book has multiple narrators.  Each person telling his or her own story from their own point of view.  Making the book wonderfully complex, the nararators jump around in time and perspective, so one character recalling the past in our current day may foreshadow another characters significant event happening in the present of their time period.  These glimpses and questions as to what happened are part of the beauty of this book.  

Not only does Jess Walter tell the story through several different narrarators, he also tells the story through different mediums - a chapter of a book and a play.  The chapter of a book was the "chapter" that almost lost me.  I am so glad I stuck with that chapter as it eventually ties in with the rest of the book beautifully.

Some may think the ending is a little tidy, but I loved the ending.  I was impressed how well Walter was able to make me feel sentimental to even some of the bit characters with only a small part in the book.

I will want to sit down and talk with someone about the title soon.  The book could have had so many different titles.  Beautiful Ruins could mean so many different things and fit in this book so many different ways.

The Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter is an absolutely marvelous book. I probably should only give it 4.75 stars as there were two chapters that almost bored me, but by the time the story wrapped up, I was so totally enthralled, the book had to get 5 stars. 

As far as the Tournament of Books is concerned.  I would not have a problem at all seeing this one win.  However, I still love Orphan Masters Son and Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk.  It will be interesting to see who this one will go up against in the first round.

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