My rating: 3 of 5 stars
When I opened Beautiful Ruins and began to read I was delighted by the setting, a small coastal town near Cinque Terre on Italy’s scenic north-western coastline, and by the characters, a young Italian inn keeper, Pasquale Tursi, owner of the “Hotel Adequate View”, and an apparently very ill American bit-part actress, Dee Maray. The descriptive prose was marvelous and the possibilities seemed endless. The time was 1962.
But the second chapter plunged me into today’s Los Angeles and into the world of motion pictures. Not someplace I want to be at the best of times. To say I found the shift disorienting would be an understatement. Subsequent chapters bounced me from the past to the present and from one set of characters to another in such dizzying succession that I almost had to keep a scoreboard to have any idea of where this novel was going. We are in 1945, 1962, 2006, the present, 1846, 1978, 1962 again, and so it goes. The plot, such as it is, diverts to tell the story of the Donner Party and its cannibalism, of the second rate career of the rock star who is Burton’s supposed illegitimate son, and of the rise of a thoroughly detestable Hollywood producer. We are transported from Italy to Los Angeles, to Idaho, to Seattle, to Edinburgh without any obvious overall scheme. Most of the characters other than the above mentioned Dee and Pasquale are thoroughly detestable, shallow types. Much of the plot revolves around the making of the movie Cleopatra, a 1960’s flop starring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton and the aftermath of that production. Burton plays a pivotal but (the author assures us in the after notes) fictitious part in this book.
Finally, in the last chapter all the diverse roles are brought together. But by that time I no longer cared. Actually I no longer cared long before the last chapter. The book is worth three stars, because it us well written and literate, but as a novel, I believe it fails on every other level. And yes, I’ve read some of the five star reviews of this book. I can’t believe they read the same book I did.
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I currently have three published novels and one short story. I hope you will add them to your reading list and let me know if you enjoy them. All are on my Goodreads page, so you can share your 'review' there if you choose. To purchase one of these books, just click on the link and choose the vendor of your choice.
• Abigails Christmas (short story) ~ An enchanting tale of love and romance, with a magical touch of fantasy.
Abigail's Christmas is a holiday story about Abigail who goes looking for a tree on Christmas Eve, and ends up with the man of her dreams in a sleigh in the Rockies --- with a wedding in the offing! Is it real? Is she dreaming? Or is it just Christmas magic?
• The Memory of Roses ~ The enduring love story of two generations of the McQuaid family unfolds on the beautiful Greek Island of Corfu. It is a tale complete with beautiful and passionate women, handsome and fiery men, and an intriguing mystery.
• Delighting In Your Company ~ Delighting In Your Company is a paranormal romance set on an exotic Caribbean island, featuring a handsome ghost and an adventurous heroine who travels back in time to solve a mystery!
• Sonata ~ Sayuri McAllister has just arrived home to Vancouver to find some startling situations:
~ A robbery has taken place at her family home, and it is being investigated by an old love;
~ Alyssa James who she barely knows, is about to become her new stepmother;
~ and Alyssa’s brother, Hugh James, is a charming Irishman who also moves into the family home. And unbeknownst to her, he is intent on bedding and wedding the rich and beautiful Sayuri.
It’s a confusing and difficult time for Sayuri, especially when dangerous accidents happen to her father and herself – or are they accidents?