Beautiful Ruins Every summer, the beach-read conundrum begins — whether to slog virtuously through Anna Karenina or Infinite Jest , or succumb to the kind of Fifty… Beautiful Ruins Every summer, the beach-read conundrum begins — whether to slog virtuously through Anna Karenina or Infinite Jest , or succumb to the kind of Fifty… 2012-06-12 Fiction HarperCollins
Book Review

Beautiful Ruins (2012)

SUMMER READ Beautiful Ruins artfully dissects a starlet's run from Hollywood and the industry she's eager to escape
SUMMER READ Beautiful Ruins artfully dissects a starlet's run from Hollywood and the industry she's eager to escape
EW's GRADE
A-

Details Release Date: Jun 12, 2012; Writer: Jess Walter; Genre: Fiction; Publisher: HarperCollins

Every summer, the beach-read conundrum begins — whether to slog virtuously through Anna Karenina or Infinite Jest, or succumb to the kind of Fifty Shades of Tattooed Twilight genre pulp that practically shrieks to passersby, ''Why, yes, I did buy this on layover at 
the Miami-Dade airport!'' Bless the latest from Jess Walter (The 
Financial Lives of the Poets) for offering a near-perfect rendezvous between those distant poles — a novel whose decade- and continent-
hopping ingenuity expertly scratches the seasonal itch for 
both literary depth and dazzle.

Beautiful Ruins opens less like a book than a Fellini-movie swoon: A gorgeous American starlet lands in a tiny 
 village (really more of a rocky 
 outcropping) on the 
Italian coast, circa 1962. What is she running from? And why is she sure that she's dying? The answer, spooled out over nearly 350 pages, brings readers to modern-day 
Hollywood, with its harried assistants, silk-pajamaed producers, and mercenary reality-show pitches; the grody punk squats of London and Edinburgh; the rural outreaches of Idaho; and beyond.

That Walter is able to juggle 
his sprawling cast — including one 
legendary real-life movie star — 
and hopscotching timelines is an impressive novelistic trick. But it's the beating heart in Ruins that makes it beautiful. A–

Originally posted Jun 06, 2012 Published in issue #1211 Jun 15, 2012 Order article reprints