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  • Published: 3 September 2019
  • ISBN: 9780241986509
  • Imprint: Penguin General UK
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 352
  • RRP: $22.99

Beautiful Ruins

The gorgeous, glamorous New York Times bestseller set in 1960s Italy and modern-day Hollywood - now a Penguin Essential

The story begins on the Italian coast in 1962. A young innkeeper watches in disbelief as a beautiful American girl gets out of a boat and climbs towards his hotel. She turns out to be an actress, on the run from the shenanigans going on down the coast in Rome at the filming of Cleopatra. A few days later international star Richard Burton, much the worse for wear, appears in the village too.

Half a century later, and half a world away in Hollywood, an elderly Italian man shows up on a movie studio's back lot - searching for the woman he last saw in his hotel fifty years before.

What unfolds is a dazzling novel teeming with unforgettable characters: the Italian and his long-lost love; the heroically cynical film producer who first brought them together, now a successful legend on the Hollywood scene, and his idealistic young assistant; and the husbands, wives and lovers, superstars and victims, who have populated their world since that summer day in 1962.

Gloriously inventive, filled with surprises, Beautiful Ruins is a magnificent novel about love and fame, dreams and reality.

  • Published: 3 September 2019
  • ISBN: 9780241986509
  • Imprint: Penguin General UK
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 352
  • RRP: $22.99

About the author

Jess Walter

Jess Walter has written four novels, most recently The Zero which was shortlisted for the National Book Award. He lives in Spokane, Washington with his family.

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Praise for Beautiful Ruins

Just about the perfect summer read. It is intelligent and thought-provoking, but also a lot of fun. Reading hours fly by and reaching the final page feels like a genuine wrench

Sunday Times

Ambitious, large-hearted, exhilarating novel that leaves you wanting more . . . Very, very funny

The Times

Beautiful Ruins is a novel unlike any other you're likely to read this year

Nick Hornby

Romantic, very funny...Turbo-charged satire meets a Garcia Marquezesque love story. What's not to like?

Daily Mail

Walter creates an epic here - one that took him 15 years to write. The end result, however, is well worth the wait


A sparkling summer read


Thoroughly enjoyable, a tender, funny, ridiculous tale which has love at its core and a keen satirical edge to cut through the lovely, lush romanticism

Sunday Express

You're going to love this book

New York Times Book Review

A brilliant, madcap meditation on fate

Kirkus Reviews

A novel shot in sparkly Technicolor


The beach read of the summer


Hilarious and compelling


Magic. Walter is a believer in capricious destiny with a fine, freewheeling sense of humour . . . A monument to crazy love with a deeply romantic heart

New York Times

Poignant, comical and marvellous

San Francisco Chronicle

Larger-than-life characters, billowy romance and crafty satire ... Any book that includes Richard Burton as a character is fine by us


Cinematic and utterly romantic . . . the big beach read for summer

Sunday Times

My absolute favourite read this year

Nick Curtis, Evening Standard 'Books of the Year'

A bravura feat

Peter Kemp, Sunday Times 'Books of the Year'

Walter's account of the filming of the Burton/Taylor classic Cleopatra is a playful imagining of emotional history and hidden lives just out of view. Be warned, this is a novel that may make any festive guests somewhat anti-social as I read it in two days flat

Olivia Cole, GQ 'Books of the Year'