A tiny village in Italy sets the stage for the events that weave through the characters' lives in "Beautiful Ruins." Pasquale, the young, ambitious owner of the Hotel Adequate View is determined to make his tiny inn a success. Wealthy Americans are just beginning to discover the Italian coast in 1962, and Pasquale believes they hold the key. When a beautiful American actress arrives, Pasquale initially believes she must have made a mistake. His attraction for Dee is so pure, and one suspects that as a beautiful actress, she is more accustomed to less sincere motivations.
Dee and Pasquale provide a link to a large cast of characters and events that span fifty years and two continents. The story jumps back and forth in time as Dee's secrets are slowly revealed. So many rich characters are written with such care. All are imperfect, and most are attempting in ways big or small to rectify past mistakes. There are lovely bits of humor throughout, and the conclusion is satisfying and worthy of these wonderfully depicted characters.
Unlike a few other reviewers, I enjoyed the slices of Hollywood life revealed in this book. It's hard to believe that the horrible thing done to Dee in 1962 could happen today, but how different is current Hollywood from Old Hollywood? Actors' personal lives are still tightly controlled, probably to a much larger degree than we realize, and many (most?) films continue to sacrifice artistry in order to appeal to the lowest common denominator.