The story begins in 1962. On a rocky patch of the sun-drenched Italian coastline, a young innkeeper, chest-deep in daydreams, looks out over the incandescent waters of the Ligurian Sea and spies an apparition: a tall, thin woman, a vision in white, approaching him on a boat. She is an actress, he soon learns, an American starlet, and she is dying.
And the story begins again today, half a world away, when an elderly Italian man shows up on a movie studio’s back lot—searching for the mysterious woman he last saw at his hotel decades earlier.
What unfolds is a dazzling, yet deeply human, roller coaster of a novel, spanning fifty years and nearly as many lives. From the lavish set of Cleopatra to the shabby revelry of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Walter introduces us to the tangled lives of a dozen unforgettable characters: the starstruck Italian innkeeper and his long-lost love; the heroically preserved producer who once brought them together and his idealistic young assistant; the army veteran turned fledgling novelist and the rakish Richard Burton himself, whose appetites set the whole story in motion—along with the husbands and wives, lovers and dreamers, superstars and losers, who populate their world in the decades that follow.
Gloriously inventive, constantly surprising, Beautiful Ruins is a story of flawed yet fascinating people, navigating the rocky shores of their lives while clinging to their improbable dreams.
Goodbye, Vitamin is the wry, beautifully observed story of a woman at a crossroads, as Ruth and her friends attempt to shore up her father’s career; she and her mother obsess over the ambiguous health benefits – in the absence of a cure – of dried jellyfish supplements and vitamin pills; and they all try to forge a new relationship with the brilliant, childlike, irascible man her father has become.
Before I start posting my reviews, I figured you should get to know me a little better. The best characters are those with some depth and backstory, so here’s a little about me and my reading preferences…
Favorite Author: Ernest Hemingway
Super original and totally unique, right? As cliche as it may be, I love Papa (the original Daddy). I first read Hemingway in high school (A Farewell to Arms) but didn’t really become a true fan until I read his other works. I’ve also read quite a bit of historical fiction about his life (Paula Mclain’s The Paris Wife, Ericka Robuck’s Hemingway’s Girl) which I find just as intriguing as his actual works.
Hemingway has a way of making the most simple things sound beautiful. I think modern writers often confuse successful writing with being ostentatious, but good writing isn’t synonymous with just using big words. His prose is straightforward and vastly unadorned – two traits I try to mimic in my own style and voice. Plus, he loved cats and a good stiff drink, which is downright relatable.
Favorite Book:The Awakening by Kate Chopin
Similar to Hemingway, I remember reading this in AP English my junior year of high school and enjoying it, but not really thinking much about it. It wasn’t until I reread it in college that I was able to really appreciate it. Now, I have a quote from it tattooed on my forearm.
I can’t express how much I love this book. Written at the turn of the century, it delves into topics considered taboo at the time – female sexuality, feminism, identity, and self-expression. The risk Chopin took in crafting this story is admirable, as is the protagonist’s journey to finding herself. Society’s expectations of how a woman should live her life have absolutely evolved, but that doesn’t mean there’s no room for improvement. These themes transcend the limits of time.
Favorite Genre: Angsty Coming-of-Age Stories/Thrillers with Strong Female Characters
These couldn’t be more opposite. On one hand, I love a wistful coming-of-age tale (Perennials by Mandy Berman, The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer), something that sparks a little reflection and nostalgia. On the other hand, the Nancy Drew in me loves a female-centric thriller (Youby Caroline Kepnes, The Good Girlby Mary Kubica) – something I imagine being narrated by Lieutenant Joe Kenda. Other genres you’ll find on my bookshelf include Historical Fiction, Stephen King Horror, Jazz Age Literature and Poetry, and Narrative Essays.
Favorite Place to Read: The Jersey Shore at dusk, in a chair, with my toes in the water
Hence, the featured photo. This is super specific, but preferably wearing an oversized sweatshirt with a hint of sunburn.
Book I Find Most Overrated: The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
Ironically enough, the book I find most overrated is America’s signature coming-of-age novel. I’ve read this book twice now and still don’t see what all the fuss is about. Truthfully, I find Holden whiney and spoiled. And I’m not taking away the book’s merit – it’s revered in classrooms across America for a barrage of reasons – but for me personally, his “alienation” comes off as disingenuous and irritating. I also feel like 80% of my male friends cite The Catcher in the Rye as their favorite book and scoff when I tell them I find it overplayed. To that I say – “People always clap for the wrong things.”
I could go on about my reading habits but that’s all for now, folks! This week, I’ll be posting my reviews from January and finally get caught up here on the blog. Stay tuned 🙂