Beautiful Ruins Book Review

Beautiful Ruins

Hollywood’s Allure in Beautiful Ruins 

Hollywood is often associate with glamor and glitz. Actors and actresses are known to live lavishly. In fact, for many, Hollywood represents the ultimate in luxury. While it is the case that Hollywood is glamorous, it should be understood that the image that individuals often see is often overly edited and incomplete. It does not capture the true depths of Hollywood. What is sadder is that the literary community has not done much to provide a more accurate depiction of the Hollywood life. Jess Walter’s Beautiful Ruins is among the few works that offer readers an unadulterated, objective and accurate portrayal of the reality of Hollywood.

Beautiful Ruins Synopsis

However detailed, no summary of the Beautiful Ruins can do this book justice. The novel is detailed, multi-faceted, and immensely dynamic. Still, it is indeed possible to develop a synopsis that captures the gist of the book. This novel is about the lives of Hollywood actors, actresses, script writers, and producers, among many others. As opposed to other authors who dominate their works with their own voices, Walter steps back and allows the different characters to speak for themselves. This is indeed an effective approach as it makes the entire book feel more personal, honest, and intimate.

The book is structured in terms of what read like chapters, with each chapter dedicated to the life of a particular character. Richard Burton and Michael Deane are among the specific characters who make an appearance in the book. As opposed to films which tend to portray actors and actresses as flawlessly gorgeous, Beautiful Ruins is harsher in how it presents them. For example, in its description of Deane, the book makes references to the many cosmetic procedures that he has undergone to the point that he looks like a Filipino girl.

The events in Beautiful Ruins are set across multiple locations. The book sets sail at a luxury hotel in Porto Vergogna, along the Italian coast. Here, readers are introduced to Dee Moray, a young American actress who has been diagnosed with cancer. Moray is just one of numerous actors and actresses whose experiences make up the plot of the novel. Each of the characters is presented as struggling with some hardship. While one actor is dealing with alcoholism, another writer is struggling to find acceptance in an industry that is superficial and exclusive. 

Themes and Messages in Beautiful Ruins

As opposed to Hollywood which tends to be shallow and empty, Beautiful Ruins is loaded with messages and themes. Perhaps the most important message that readers take away from the book is that Hollywood is often misrepresented. For example, according to Walter, people working in Hollywood struggle with such hardships as substance use, terminal illnesses, and rejection. By changing the narrative about Hollywood, the book humanizes this industry, enabling readers to appreciate the fallibility, inadequacy and flaws of their favorite actors and actresses.

That it is difficult to find success in Hollywood is another theme that Beautiful Ruins is bold enough to confront. After reading the book, individuals are left with the understanding that out of ten people who pursue their dreams in Hollywood, only one succeeds. According to this book, success is so elusive that those with big dreams should chase them elsewhere. The book helps readers to sympathize with the actors and actresses who commit tremendous effort but fail to achieve recognition.

Not all of the issues that Beautiful Ruins tackles are serious. Perhaps out of fear that he would bore his audience, Walter also addresses issues like love that are more likely to appeal to the masses. For example, he introduces various characters who engage in relentless and inspiring quests for love. Since these characters are modelled on real Hollywood actors and actresses, it is clear that the message that Walter sought to communicate is that even the famous yearn for love and their spirits seek company. Essentially, Walter assures his readers that Hollywood is made up of people who are desperate in their yearning for acceptance and love.

The courage that is needed to find satisfaction and fulfills one’s purpose is another subject that readers should prepare themselves for. Claire, Deane’s assistant is the main character that Walter uses to show that it is impossible to accomplish one’s vision without courage. Surrounded by successful actors and actresses, Claire wonders whether she will be able to bring her own films to the Hollywood stage. Her anxieties as well as her dreams serve as symbols of the boldness that is required for success. 

Why Beautiful Ruins is different

There are countless documentaries and books that explore the reality of Hollywood. This fact raises the question of why readers should learn about Hollywood from Walter. Well, to begin with, Walter does not impose his ideas on readers. Technically, given that he authored the book, the ideas that it conveys are indeed his. However, by presenting them through the voices of various characters, he injects a raw and reliable tone into the book. Basically, readers feel that they are hearing from actual writers, actors, and actresses themselves.

It is all about style!

The unusual style that Walter adopts is another issue that earns Beautiful Ruins the privilege to be read. He combines multiple voices and perspectives to deliver a unified and coherent vision. When another author uses this style, what is likely to emerge is a messy patchwork of unrelated stories. Walter has mastered this technique and he uses it to share various stories while presenting a common message that readers will be sure to take home.

In addition to the issues addressed above, Beautiful Ruins is also immensely deep and personal. It strives to establish an actual connection with readers. The book manages to draw readers in with captivating and moving narrations and monologues. It was indeed wise for Walter to step back and empower his characters to direct how their experiences are delivered. Given its effectiveness, the approach that he adopts should be embraced by other authors who are struggling to establish rapport with and gain the undivided attention of their audiences.

Humor in Beautiful Ruins

Humor is one of the literary elements that carry huge risks. In their attempts to be humorous, writers often end up offending their audiences. Walter shows that when used with restraint and wisdom, humor can have the intended effect. He employs humor to highlight the essence of the human condition. There are other moments where his use of humor is simply intended to get audiences to laugh. Beautiful Ruins is a model for funny storytelling that retains its seriousness while still being approachable, humble, and easy to read. 

Final Thoughts

Beautiful Ruins is not perfect. Far from it. For example, there are turns and twists that are rather distracting and do not add much value to the book. Such a flaw would doom the work of any other writer. Walter manages to redeem himself by providing readers with distractions that divert their attention away from the few mistakes and shortcomings. Beautiful Ruins is what beautiful and inspired writing should look like. More importantly, this book demonstrates that difficult and serious topics can be communicated in a fashion that is so engaging yet respectful. The book is awarded four out of five stars. It is denied one star because it is easily forgettable. 

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