What I’m Reading | Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter

I’m going to start simply by saying this:

YOU NEED TO READ THIS BOOK! *deep breaths*

Beautiful Ruins according to Nick Hornby is “a novel unlike any other you’re likely to read this year.” the New York Times says it is a “monument to crazy love” and the Times calls it “an ambitious, large-hearted, exhilarating novel” and they are right. The book itself is about a man who lives in Italy and he falls in love with an American movie actress (with cancer) when she comes to stay at his hotel. Fifty years later he travels to California to find this woman who he lost way back in 1962 and embarks on an epic journey to find his love. 


I first bought it initially because it is set, sort of, in Italy which is my favourite country and the blurb sounded incredibly sweet, how could I not want to read something so cute!? It’s also about California and actresses which is also what made me drawn. Normally I wouldn’t read something like this (I tend to go for more ‘dark’ stuff) but I had been drawn to it for a while- probably partly because the cover was all bright colours- and I gave in.

At first I couldn’t get into it. I admit that, but having came out of reading ‘Divergent’ which is a pretty easy read for someone my age, the writing style seemed a bit difficult and slow. Since I normally like to devour books I took the slow pace as a sign of it being bad and left it on my bookshelf unread from page 21 for three or four months and I picked it up again last week when, looking through my books, I realised I had not finished a few and this was one so I resumed reading. 

Once you come at it having taken a break from reading the style of the book is actually magnificent, if anything the slow pace helps you to contemplate everything that the book throws at you and therefore makes every word feel significant. And every word is significant. If there’s one thing I like it is when a novel uses words eloquently to create a story, where no word out of thousands is wasted and it is definitely a feel I get with Beautiful Ruins. 

The chapters are also well set out following the ‘points of view’ (though not in first person- thank god) of multiple people. It starts in Italy, 1962 and then jumps to California in a time simply known as ‘recently’ to 2008, and so forth, as the story unravels not only in the ‘present’ day Los Angeles but also in the past, in Italy and America, and it tells the story of how Pasquale fell in love with a woman, and how he found her. Every time a new character is introduced the next chapter is about them, it tells their part of the story. Though I’m not going to give examples because I want you to find it out for yourself. 

I love it. Beautiful Ruins is, I have to say, Beautiful. I’m only a little over a half way, if not more, and although I’m still reading it and do not know what is going to happen yet I could not recommend it enough. This book feels like it matters. I root for the protagonist- which is rare- I adore all the characters and how they all unwittingly held a significance. It’s a book that is uplifting and devastating at the same time, a tribute to love and cinema and so much more. If there’s one book you read this year it has to be this one. 


Playing in Spain | Day 2

I realise now, the evening before I come back to England that I still have nine days of spanish adventures to write up. Oops. Now when I get back to Britain (which has been rainy and miserable recently) I’ll be missing it all, wishing that I never left. So, here is day two:

We started early in the morning, as the plan for the day was to walk around the entire city and find our bearings, even though one of the group had lived in Spain for a year and knew the area well. Still, it got us to look around. I woke up at half past six, which equates to five thirty in England. I’m not one to wake up before eleven without a mocha so to wake up at that time, without even a coffee bean in sight so when I was showered, dressed and ready to go by half past seven everyone was a bit surprised. Everyone else was ready by around nine and then we were off. 

We took the metro down to the city centre because it was easier than walking through all the streets that are mainly housing and not much else. When we got to the city centre it was already boiling hot, around twenty eight degrees celsius, which for a Brit is extreme. We started walking around looking at all these pretty squares. There was one that was so fancy, with an art deco type cinema on one side, that I felt like I had become a glitzy star.

Off the side of this square was a bunch of shops, one of which was a bikini shop which I went in and bought a new bikini, because we were going to a water park the next day and the one I had wasn’t suitable for it (how can you trust two triangles strapped to your chest with string as you’re whizzing down a huge slide?). There was also a “bubble tea” place, which was more iced drinks, smoothies and milkshakes than tea. I got an oreo milkshake with strawberry bubbles, though the choice was difficult. Ed got a melon one which was really refreshing, especially in the heat. We kept walking with these drinks until we came to a square which was part of the old town, though I’m not sure how old, which was where a cathedral and the bishops house was. It was beautiful. 

The Cathedral is supposedly the true place of the real holy grail and a lot of historians back this up. This felt like a big deal so we decided to have a look. There you could pay five euros to look around the church, or two euros to climb the tower (with 207 steps) and still have to walk through the church. So we decided to climb the tower.

Up we went.

Climbing was quite easy, if not slightly dizzying as you spiralled around a narrow staircase with only a thin handrail to keep you steady. The people coming back down had it harder though, having to manage the narrowest part of the spiral stairs in ridiculous flip flops and sandals. I was wearing Birkenstocks. As we got to a particularly narrow part of the climb, where I was watching people practically fall down, that I got a bit worried about the descent. However I first had to get to the top. Not easy when you don’t like being in tight spaces and struggling for breath. Just for a view.

But the view was spectacular, stretching all the way across the city, old and new, from one end to the other. You could see the sea on the horizon. 

“Valencia is much bigger than I thought it was” I said, awesturck. But I suppose you’d get that impresion if so far you’d only seen the beach and the old town. We talked history, I tried not to look down too much, or up, as the remided me of the 207 narrow and steeps steps I would have to descend in minutes. I panicked. 

I don’t want to talk about it. 

But going down wasn’t so bad. Probably because the people saw how terrified I looked and let me stick to the hand rail, probably because I refused to move away from the hand-rail. And we were down, on the ground. Finally. 

After that we hand lunch, at the same square, the tower laughing at me in the distance. I was now hot and tired and wanted to go home. But I ate some ham and cheese and watched the people moving about the plaza, The policemen patrolling the streets, the buskers and beggars all asking for our attention. It was nice. If only home had squares like this. They did attempt it back home, pedestrianised some of the market place, but it is mostly empty and a car park ruins the ambience. 

We walked more. I bought a bag for the beach, since my diddy one that I had right now would not fit anything more than my purse and the bare essentials. Then we walked even more. To one of the towers, passing a little place with orange trees, more old buildings, and then we reached one of the gigantic gates that marked where the wall used to stand. We had a look on the outside. We were going to go in, but by the time we had got there I was tired, struggling to stay awake even, I was hot and sticky and my fan wasn’t helping much, dehydrated (even with five lemon fantas in my system) and ill, which was presumably from the heat. Instead I went home with Ed, and had a nap. 

When I awoke, feeling refreshed and happier (England needs siestas) we got ready to head down to the beach for a little while. We paddled in the mediterranean, though it wasn’t much fun, the sea was incredibly salty that it hurt your eyes if it splashed you, and the waves were so powerful I was sure that if I lost control I’d be washed out with the tide. 

I can’t remember much else of the day, either because it wasn’t eventful enough or something, but we had pizzas for dinner inside our rented flat and then went to bed almost straight after because it was such a shattering day. The little futon now impossibly comfortable, even for six foot Ed whose feet dangled off the end. 

(I’ll add pictures later, but right now I can’t access OneDrive and I want to go to sleep)