I'm not really sure why I went into this novel feeling slightly prejudicial.
Jess Walter is from one of my favourite places in the world: Washington State. That alone should recommend him. I think maybe I was slightly put off from reading Beautiful Ruins because I waited too long to do so. The book was published back in 2012, and I heard so much about it back then that I wanted to read it, but then I didn't and experienced that inundation from NPR and the NYT and really, every literary source I follow. When that happens and I haven't managed to read the book during it's initial celebratory release time, my brain starts whispering to me that it really can't be that great, that it's overhyped, over-exposed.
But a sweet friend gave me the book for Christmas, and because he liked it so much. I was visiting him last month, so I felt like I had to finally read it.
And I'm so glad I did.
Whew, there's a lot of slander here, for both the imaginary and real-life (Richard Burton) characters. While reading I had a lot of questions like, "Wait, is Richard Burton still alive? Was he really that much of an ass?" And since Richard Burton is dead - thanks, Google! - (I'm not all that up on celebrity-alive-or-not-statuses), "Could Richard Burton's estate sue over a book like this?"
And I liked everything: the settings (Cinque Terre, Los Angeles, Washington state...), the characters, the writing.
But my favourite thing about Beautiful Ruins?
Nothing ended in the expected, Hollywood sort of way. Okay, one of the relationships sort of did (but only after deviating for several years into the unexpected), and it was the one you most hoped to end in that way. We are introduced to meet-cutes in the typical sort of way, expect grand, deep romances out of others, expect a particular jerk to keep being a jerk, which he mostly does, but then also surprises us slightly.
Will absolutely be reading more of Jess Walter.