Lake Como is an easy, simple read. It was exactly what I needed to read during finals week when I had an Anatomy test looming over my head. Its about rich people and their problems and how money seems to attack money, or something like that. There’s princesses and beautiful villas and of course a wonderful man for every woman.
Jess Walter’s Beautiful Ruins is told with time jumps from 1962 to present day, where the past affects the future in all the characters. Just south of Cinque Terre in 1962, a young movie star comes ashore in a remote village which is only accessible by boat. The local owner of the hotel, already obsessing about turning his village into the next place for Americans to escape, watches over his guest with his own future in mind. Meanwhile, a has-been movie producer in present day Hollywood has a surprise visitor from his past.
Jess Walter’s introduces all his characters with purpose and they all tie the story together. This includes the enigmatic Elizabeth Taylor, who never appears in the novel, but is referenced by all the characters because in 1962, when half the book takes place, a young Liz is filming Cleopatra in Rome, not far from the picturesque Italian village.
Having the plot jump back and forth can be jarring to a reader, but Walters keeps everything smooth in his telling. He also keeps everyone guessing as to what secrets have been covered up for 50 years and who will be most impacted by their revelation.
This was a beautiful story of people living their lives with all the good and bad out for the reader to see. Jess Walter writes compassionately about all his characters, even in their selfish awfulness.
Read April 2015
Amanda Knox’s Waiting to Be Heard: A Memoir, is Knox’s own story about her brief time at school in Perugia, Italy and the four years that followed in an Italian prison. I followed the case after the murder of Meredith Kercher in November 2007 and learning the story from Knox’s perspective was an exciting listen (I listened to the audiobook version).
Knox reveals how her actions caused the Perugian police to hone in on her as the suspect, but she does it without owning up to her part. She couldn’t remember what she and her boyfriend did the night of the murder only a couple of days after so the police began to suspect her of covering up. She ended up dragging 2 men through the Italian court system because she couldn’t remember what happened when she went over to Raffaele Sollecito’s apartment the night of the murder. I’m not excusing the Italian justice system for their mishandling of this case, at least from the horrific tale that Knox takes us through.
Knox’s memoir is filled with the details that I remember from the crime and her defense is that she was naive and innocent and didn’t think of how her actions would look in the light of a murder investigation. I get that she was young and unworldly, but I also understand why initially the police took her actions as guilty. And I feel this way after hearing her own words about the events.
However, based on the evidence that was finally admitted into her second trial, I cannot believe that the police let the case proceed based on the minimal evidence and intuition with which they relied. I’m relieved to know that at least one of the murderers is behind prison, although how he had his sentenced lowered is ridiculous.
This book also acts as a tutorial into the Italian legal system which is a scary place viewed from the perspective of a wrongfully convicted prisoner. And after reading this, I truly believe that Knox is innocent of the murder and its unfortunate that so many lives were ruined, including the Kercher family who lost their daughter and sister.
Read/listened July 2013