One day in 1962, a speedboat approaches a small Italian village hidden in the cracks of the mountains. The boat bears a young American actress who has been sent from the set of Cleopatra because she is terminally ill (not to mention having an affair with one of the married actors). The actress, Dee Moray, stays at the small Hotel Adequate View, run by young Pasquale Tursi, and his relationship with the actress and the events that unfold following her arrival change the course of his life in many ways.
In present day Hollywood, an elderly Italian man shows up at a movie studio looking for a producer, hoping the man can help him find the woman who stayed at his hotel many years before. What he doesn't understand is how much the producer has to gainand loseby helping with this mission.
Jess Walter's poetic Beautiful Ruins switches between 1960s Italy and the present day, as well as times and locations in between. It is a story of love and loss, of realizing your destiny and shouldering your responsibilities, and how you never quite lose the dreams you have. Walter's characters are well-drawn (even the real-life ones) and they hook you pretty quickly. While the shifting of time and place became a little confusing once the book added settings beyond Italy and Hollywood, I fell in love with the story. I found this beautifully written and utterly compelling, the stuff of nostalgia. Definitely read this.