Estimated read time: 6 min read

One Sentence Summary

A young Italian innkeeper's life is forever changed when a beautiful American actress arrives in his small coastal village.


"Beautiful Ruins" by Jess Walter is a captivating novel that spans decades and continents, weaving together multiple storylines and characters. Set in Italy and Hollywood, the novel explores themes of love, dreams, and the impact of the entertainment industry on people's lives. With its rich character development and intricate plot, "Beautiful Ruins" offers readers an immersive and emotionally resonant reading experience.

Brief Synopsis

Plot Overview

The novel is primarily set in two different time periods: the early 1960s on the Italian coastline and present-day Hollywood. The story begins in 1962, when a young Italian innkeeper named Pasquale Tursi encounters a beautiful and mysterious American actress, Dee Moray, who arrives at his small hotel. Their brief but impactful encounter sets off a series of events that reverberate across decades and continents.

In present-day Hollywood, we meet Claire Silver, a driven assistant to a powerful film producer. When a washed-up and disillusioned Hollywood producer, Michael Deane, stumbles upon Pasquale's Italian hotel while seeking solace from his failing career, the lives of these characters become intricately intertwined. As the novel unfolds, we are taken on a journey through time and space, witnessing the consequences of love, ambition, and the pursuit of artistic fulfillment.


The novel's primary settings include the idyllic Italian coastline in the 1960s, where Pasquale's hotel stands as a beacon of hope and beauty, and the bustling and often cutthroat world of modern-day Hollywood. The contrasting settings serve as a backdrop for the characters' journeys, highlighting the passage of time and the enduring impact of past decisions on their lives.

Main Characters

The novel features a diverse cast of characters whose lives intersect in unexpected ways, driving the narrative forward and providing a multifaceted exploration of human relationships and aspirations.

Pasquale TursiA young innkeeper in a remote Italian coastal village, whose encounter with a mysterious American actress sets off a chain of events that shape his life.
Dee MorayA beautiful and enigmatic American actress who arrives at Pasquale's hotel in the 1960s, leaving a lasting impression on him and others around her.
Claire SilverA driven and ambitious assistant to a powerful film producer in present-day Hollywood, who becomes entangled in the search for a long-lost connection to the events that unfolded decades earlier in Italy.
Michael DeaneA jaded and past-his-prime Hollywood producer who finds himself drawn to Pasquale's hotel, setting off a series of revelations and emotional reckonings as he confronts his own choices and their impact on those around him.

Story Points Over Chapters

Chapter 1-3: The Encounter in Italy

The novel opens with Pasquale Tursi, a young innkeeper in a remote Italian coastal village, encountering the alluring American actress, Dee Moray. Their brief but impactful interaction sets the stage for the intertwining of their lives and the unfolding of a decades-spanning story.

Chapter 4-6: Hollywood Intrigue

We are introduced to Claire Silver, an ambitious assistant in present-day Hollywood, and Michael Deane, a struggling film producer. Their professional and personal struggles set the stage for the convergence of past and present, as they become entangled in the search for connections to the events that unfolded in Italy decades earlier.

Chapter 7-9: Unraveling Mysteries

As the narrative unfolds, we delve deeper into the characters' pasts and the enduring impact of their choices. Secrets are revealed, and the complexities of love, regret, and the pursuit of artistic fulfillment come to the forefront, driving the characters to confront their past and present selves.

Chapter 10-12: Converging Paths

The disparate storylines begin to converge, as the characters' lives intersect in unexpected ways. Pasquale's enduring love for Dee Moray, Claire's quest for truth, and Michael's search for redemption culminate in a series of revelations and emotional reckonings that challenge their perceptions of love, dreams, and the passage of time.

Main Events

Pasquale and Dee's Encounter

The initial meeting between Pasquale and Dee Moray at the Italian hotel sets off a series of events that reverberate across decades, shaping the course of their lives and the lives of those around them.

Claire's Investigation

Claire Silver's relentless pursuit of the truth leads her to uncover long-buried secrets and connections to the past, as she navigates the complexities of the entertainment industry and its impact on personal and professional aspirations.

Michael's Reckoning

Struggling with his failing career and disillusionment with Hollywood, Michael Deane's unexpected encounter with Pasquale's hotel forces him to confront his own choices and their enduring impact on the lives of others, leading to a profound emotional reckoning.

Themes and Insights

Love and Longing

The novel explores the enduring power of love and the profound impact of longing, as characters navigate the complexities of romantic relationships, unfulfilled dreams, and the yearning for connection across time and distance.

Artistic Fulfillment

Through the lens of the entertainment industry, the novel delves into the pursuit of artistic fulfillment and the sacrifices and compromises that accompany the quest for creative expression and success.

Passage of Time

"Beautiful Ruins" vividly captures the passage of time and its impact on individuals and their relationships, as the narrative unfolds across decades, continents, and the evolving landscapes of Italy and Hollywood.

Reader's Takeaway

Readers of "Beautiful Ruins" are treated to a rich and emotionally resonant narrative that spans generations and continents, offering a deeply human exploration of love, dreams, and the enduring impact of the choices we make. The novel's immersive storytelling and multifaceted characters invite readers to contemplate the complexities of relationships, the pursuit of artistic fulfillment, and the passage of time.


"Beautiful Ruins" by Jess Walter intricately weaves together multiple storylines and characters, transporting readers across time and space to explore the profound impact of love, dreams, and the entertainment industry on the lives of its diverse cast of characters. With its evocative settings, rich themes, and emotionally resonant storytelling, the novel offers readers a captivating and immersive reading experience that lingers long after the final page.

Beautiful Ruins FAQ

  1. What is 'Beautiful Ruins' about?

    Beautiful Ruins is a novel that spans decades and continents, following the intertwined lives of a young Italian innkeeper, a starlet in 1960s Hollywood, a jaded screenwriter, and others. It explores themes of love, ambition, and the impact of choices made in the past.

  2. Who is the author of 'Beautiful Ruins'?

    Jess Walter is the author of 'Beautiful Ruins'. He is known for his compelling storytelling and vivid characters.

  3. Is 'Beautiful Ruins' a romance novel?

    While romance is a central theme in 'Beautiful Ruins', the novel also delves into the complexities of human relationships, the influence of the entertainment industry, and the pursuit of dreams.

  4. What time periods does 'Beautiful Ruins' cover?

    'Beautiful Ruins' covers a wide range of time periods, including the 1960s in Hollywood, as well as more contemporary settings. The narrative weaves together different eras to create a rich and interconnected story.

  5. Is 'Beautiful Ruins' a character-driven or plot-driven novel?

    'Beautiful Ruins' is a character-driven novel, focusing on the lives and experiences of its diverse cast of characters. Their individual journeys and interactions form the heart of the narrative.