In 1962, a young American actress, thought to be dying, arrives by boat at a small Italian coastal village called Porto Vergogna. The actress, Dee Moray, is in Italy filming Cleopatra with Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. Pasquale, the Porto Vergogna innkeeper, immediately falls in love with the beautiful, innocent Dee.
Fifty years after their initial meeting, Pasquale travels to Hollywood to find Michael Deane, a legendary producer who may be the only person who knows what happened to Dee after she left Italy. Pasquale and Deane join Claire Silver (disillusioned Hollywood production assistant) and Shane Wheeler (a struggling screenwriter who describes, in great detail, his Donner Party-inspired script) to search for Dee Moray and discover the truth about her “illness,” her relationship with Richard Burton, and what really happened in Italy in 1962.
Walter’s hilarious descriptions of the disintegration of classic Hollywood into the miasma of reality TV (including biting descriptions of Deane himself) holds together the novel’s sometimes frayed narrative. Beautiful Ruins is full of laughs, and heart – perfect for the beach.
Recommendation: A good summer read!