Beautiful Ruins (an audiobook review)

Every so often, a novel comes along and surprises us with it's sophistication, sentimentality, wit and truth.  Beautiful Ruins is one of those novels and we are only going to drop this hint once: MOTHER'S DAY PRESENT. (We've already bought a copy for our mom and another copy for our pseudo-mom for Sunday's festivities.)

We purchased Beautiful Ruins as a Kindle book and then, on impulse, paid the extra money to get the audiobook along with it hoping to try out Amazon's new voice-to-book thing-y.  (By the way, you Amazon peeps need to tweak that whole book-audio sync a kinda sucked.)  We ended up simply listening to the audio version because Eduardo Ballerini's narration was so rich and gorgeous to listen to....The Literate Housewife and A Reader's Respite listened along together and we both simply melted.

The story vacillates between the tiny seaside town of Porto Vergogna, Italy (translation: Port Shame) in the 1960s and modern day Los Angeles.  In Porto Vergogna we meet Pasquale, a young man who lives with his widowed mother and owner of the only 'hotel' in town, The Hotel Adequate View.  Pasquale lives a quiet and lonely life until the day a glamorous actress shows up at his hotel.  Dee Moray, an extra in the epic film Cleopatra being filmed in Rome at that time, will change Pasquale's life forever.

Meanwhile, in present day Los Angeles, Claire Silver works for an over-rated, has-been producer trying to find some meaning in the insipid Hollywood reality shows and mind-numbing action films that are currently so ubiquitous.  When a script writer and an elderly Italian man show up in office one afternoon, everything changes.

What do these people have in common?  We're not going to tell you and spoil the unfolding of this gorgeous story.  But we will give you a hint:  

Who Am I?

If you are wondering what any of this has to do with Mother's Day, we'll tell you this: Beautiful Ruins is, on one level, the heart-achingly honest story of the sacrifices a mother makes for her children.  There is no second-guessing, no hesitation. A mother is everything.  Unless you're Pasquale's mother, who threw his pet cat in the sea when her son left for university. Really.  It's hysterical.  Read it!

Title: Beautiful Ruins
Author:  Jess Walter
Publisher:  Harper (Harper Audio for the audiobook version)
Pages: 352 (12 hours, 52 minutes unabridged audio)
Source:  Bought and paid for by yours truly

Rating: 5 Stars (this one will make our top ten at year's end!)


  1. I'm a little pissed I didn't listen to the audio, but only because I'd impulsively bought it for my Kindle. And here is the deal. It is probably one of the best books I read last year. Unbelievably amazing, different and creative, hilariously funny. I don't know if you have read The Financial Lives of the Poets by Walter, but you must. It isn't quite as good as Beautiful Ruins but still has that snarky wise-ass humor in it.

  2. Hummm. I guess I'd better get listening.

  3. I have this in print but wonder if I should hold out for the audio. Melting sounds pretty appealing right now.

  4. top ten of the year?! omg, need to read. I have an ARC of this -- kind of envying the audiobook now!

  5. Ah, I hadn't thought about picking this up on audiobook. I may have to do that.

  6. It really is worth it, I promise.

  7. Oh I still think the print version would be just as good. I was just having a hard time switching back and forth between the audio and print as the Kindle voice-to-text is supposed to. I loved the audio so much, I just went to that for the whole thing out of convenience. ;)

  8. I've been seeing a lot of people LOVING this book. I just may have to check it out. That and I adore classic movies.

  9. Can I just tell you how much I loved that the movie Cleopatra features in this book? And that Richard Burton is a freaking CHARACTER? I would have swooned had I not been laughing.


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