First, can I just mention how gorgeous the cover is? I mean…wow. That’s what pulled me in, those gorgeous blues and happy tones. And then the blurb: a gorgeous American starlet arrives in an all-but-deserted trattoria on the Italian seaside in 1962 – and she’s dying? Everyone was either reading this book or looking forward to reading it, it seemed. And so I did.
Maybe I’m not as critical a reader as I should be, because after I finished, I read the reviews and I don’t understand what everyone saw that I missed.
Themes: There were beautiful themes, always. This was one of those books that you never had to wonder what the point was. Love and loss and betrayal and goals and daydreaming and ambition and parenting and being your best self today. They played out better in some chapters than in others, and sometimes characters and story arcs seemed to exist only to hammer home the theme. Does this character or plot development forward my themes? Yes, but I felt at times the question should have been, Can the theme be just as well explained if I leave it out? At times, I thought it could.
Characters: Aside from young Pasquale in 1962, I liked the present-day characters a lot more…only they did seem a bit shallow. A bit vampish. A bit unremarkable. The 1962 settings felt more real and the characters more authentic; the problem being that that particular scene isn’t my usual cuppa. I enjoyed watching Dee Morray unravel and react to the chaos around her, but anytime the camera focused on a scene without Ms. Morray, my attention started wandering. And the problem was, of course, that Dee was only one tiny bit of the bigger picture.
Storylines: Another big problem was the number of plots and sub-plots that fed the feast of themes. With so many sub-plots and a twisting train of characters to manage, I felt like I was always being jolted around to peek in on the “Meanwhiles….” The book mostly bounced between 1962 Italy and current-day Hollywood, but introduced a current-day Dee Morray AND and earlier-than-current-day-but-much-later-than-1962 Dee to establish some background on her son. It was necessary information, but there had to have been a better way to tell that particular story. It felt clunky, jerking me around all over the timeline and abandoning other threads for so long.
Needless to say, this was a big disappointment for me. I enjoyed it enough to read it through from the first word to the last, but I still only have 2 1/2 of 5 stars for Beautiful Ruins. Give it a whirl if you want, but I certainly won’t push you to do so.