Beautiful Ruins

9780061928178_p0_v6_s260x420As Labor Day approaches, there is one more long weekend left to the summer.  We’ve have some unseasonably cool weather here this week, which I’ve really enjoyed – it’s a fall preview!  I’m hoping to soak up the most pool and beach time possible over the next week before we go back to school.  Over the long weekend, there’s still time to enjoy one last beach read.  Today I’m sharing one of the best books I read over the summer.  Beautiful Ruins was on my to-read list last summer, and I somehow didn’t get around to reading it.  It’s now out on paperback, and it is the perfect summer read!

The beginning of the book focuses on a young American actress vacationing in southern Italy who meets a local named Pasquale, whose family owns a small hotel along the Mediterranean coast.  Dee Morray was a starlet with a small part in the Cleopatra movie starring Elizabeth Taylor.  The movie was being filmed nearby, in 1962.  Dee is taking a break from the set, and has been sent by producers and studio execs to Pasquale’s hotel.  The novel switches from the present day to back to that year, and the second chapter switches to present-day Hollywood, in the office one one of Hollywood’s most popular and successful writers and producers.  Focusing on a young woman who had been working as an assistant in a producer’s office.

It’s not until later in the book that these two stories intersect.  Dee had been sent to this remote beach town after being diagnosed with stomach cancer.  Listening to her symptoms, and the way she was handled by studio execs, I was wondering if she was actually pregnant.  But, she is young, and ironically her mother had actually died rather young of stomach cancer herself, making this diagnosis really tough to take, Dee doesn’t seem to question it at all.

There are very few guests in the hotel, and Pasquale cares for her patiently and lovingly.  A local doctor comes, whose bedside manner is much better than the one that had been hired by the studio.  He realizes she is pregnant.  This explains why studio execs wanted her off the movie set – one of the biggest attractions of the movie was Burton’s ongoing affair with the movie’s star, Elizabeth Taylor.

There is an introduction to a musician in another chapter and it’s not at first clear how he fits into the story.  The musician is the product of an affair between Dee and Richard Burton, after she finds out she’s pregnant, she leaves Italy behind.  The assistant who is mentioned earlier in the book turns out to have been working for the producer who orchestrated Dee’s exit from the Cleopatra set.  I really loved this book – and can’t believe I waited so long to read it!!  I loved the imagery, and could totally picture Dee and Pasquale hiking along the rocky Mediterranean coast.  Pick this up if you plan on lounging on the beach this weekend – or just wish you could!!

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