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Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter

Alternating between a tiny Italian coastal village in the early 1960s and present-day Hollywood, Beautiful Ruins gives us the story of a young American starlet who didn’t quite make it big, a young Italian hotel owner with dreams of the big-time, a washed-up rock musician, and … Richard Burton.  Author Jess Walter artfully blends all of these plot threads in a bright, entertaining, and sometimes devastating drama that stands in contrast to the fabulous fiasco of the Liz-and-Dick Cleopatra movie and a misguided unmade film about the doomed Donner party. Although some of the dialogue and situations seems a little too much in places, Beautiful Ruins is a captivating novel about the kinds of choices we can make when things get messy, as they inevitably do.

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