Buon giorno tutti!

As you may have noticed, La Lingua is in the process of having a little makeover. It's not quite finished yet (and now that I've discovered the ease of buying web design I'm sure this will be an ongoing journey) but I'm really happy with the changes so far and hope you prefer it as well!

I bought the template from Carrie Loves Design on Etsy and it was the easiest thing to install!

Today I'm reviewing an amazing novel called Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter.

This little gem had been sitting on my bookshelf for quite a while until I got round to reading it. Does anybody else have trouble fitting all of the books they want to read in?

I'd already read the opening chapter a couple of times in an attempt to start the book but it was just one of those novels that seemed too good to eat all in one go. The time had to be right. I wanted to read it in the Italian sunshine to echo the fact that the story skips between the 1960s Italian riviera and modern day Hollywood.

The book opens in 1962. Pasquale is repeatedly tossing rocks into the Ligurian sea in an attempt to build a breakwater for a beach for his tiny ramshackle hotel when a dream drifts into the bay in a motorboat.

An American actress has been sent to the tiny fictional town of Porto Vergogna (literally, Port Shame) and she is dying. Pasquale falls in love with her on sight and is overwhelmed to discover that this actress is here to stay in his hotel.

Cut to the present day and Claire, an executive producing assistant to one of the biggest has-beens in Hollywood, is making a deal with fate. Stuck with a hopeless porn addict boyfriend and her dream job which isn't turning out to be how she imagined, she considers jacking it all in for a quiet job in a museum and a life alone.

Until two unlikely figures turn up at the studio, an ambitious young writer and an old Italian man who has come looking for answers to his past.

What follows is an enchanting story of love, loss and hope peppered with comedy that challenges the melancholy that occasionally seeps into the pages.

Whilst we flick between the events of that summer in 1962 and the quest for truth in modern day LA, we are taken on a journey which explores a range of human emotions and the ultimate challenge of choosing to do the right thing over what we want most in the world.

At times it made me laugh like when Orenzio, the driver of the motorboat that brings the actress into the little harbour, answers her question of "What is that man doing?" with "Bitch."

At other times it made me cry (almost) like when modern day Pasquale utters the name of the woman he has come searching for 50 years later and he says it with such significance and emotion that everyone in the room is silenced as the name floats to the floor like a feather: "Dee Moray".

After a fairly perfect opening, the middle of the book can be a little slow-moving at times but by the end you realise just how well Walter has crafted this novel so that every fragment of the jigsaw fits.

There are no huge surprises yet at the same time you are constantly left waiting and wondering and hoping that everything will turn out well for these beautiful ruins of people. There's a little big-name dropping and a well executed cover up for why the stories we discover, linked to the stars of the old cinema, are not common knowlegde today.

The characters are well developed and progress before your eyes. They are not just caricatures of people, they are people. They grow and act in ways you wouldn't necessarily expect them to.

But for me the real beauty of the novel lies in the ending. The gorgeous, heart-breaking ending in which Walter wraps up every single tale that there is to be told.