Recap: It’s 1962. Innkeeper Pasquale is hoping for an American guest to boost business at his small hotel in a small coastal port in Italy. As luck may have it, in walks Dee Moray — not only an American, but an American actress who’s visiting Italy to shoot Cleopatra with Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. Dee is dying and comes to the hotel alone. Pasquale begins to care for her and leaves the inn for Rome, to get someone from the movie set to come and help her. There, he runs into his ex and their illegitimate child.
Flash forward to present day in Hollywood. Washed-up movie producer Michael Deane is looking for his next big hit. He’s not interested in quality film or television. He’s interested in dollar signs. And his young, hopeful assistant Claire is debating whether or not to quit her job for something more substantial. But everything changes when Pasquale shows up at Michael Deane’s office.
Dee Moray is the stunning and talented beauty who connects these two men, then and now. But no one knows where she is, or what happened to her. Suddenly, the men who crossed each other’s paths some 50 years ago are working together to right their wrongs.
Analysis: Spanning several decades, going back and forth between storylines, characters, and time periods, Beautiful Ruins keeps the story of Pasquale, Dee, and Michael moving in an inventive, page-turning way. Based on the exposition, I knew how I wanted the book to end from the start. It didn’t end the way I wanted or expected it to. But as it turns out, the ultimate resolution proved to be the right and better ending after all.
The title Beautiful Ruins explains everything one needs to know about this book. On the surface, the title describes the port where Pasquale, Dee, and Michael Deane meet in 1962. “Beautiful” also describes the way the book is written. But “Beautiful Ruins” is a metaphor for every character in the novel. Pasquale, Dee, and Michael were all beautiful in 1962. But 50 years later, they are older, damaged by the things they’ve gone through, the pain they’ve dealt with. They have become “ruins” in their own right. But together, they work to prove that it’s never too late to find the beauty again, even after you think you’ve lost it.
MVP: Pasqale. It’s Dee that brings everyone together in 1962. But it’s Pasquale who brings everyone together 50 years later. An extraordinary man who’s lead an ordinary life because he made the “right” choices, Pasquale is beautiful inside and out, and deserves the happiness he has sacrificed for so long.