The story begins in 1962. On a rocky patch of the sun-drenched Italian coastline, a young innkeeper, chest-deep in daydreams, looks on over the incandescent waters of the Ligurian Sea and spies an apparition: a tall, thin woman, a vision in white, approaching him on a boat. She is an actress, he soon learns, an American starlet, and she is dying.
And the story begins again today, half a world away, when an elderly Italian man shows up on a movie studio's back lot-searching for the mysterious woman he last saw at his hotel decades earlier.
What unfolds is a dazzling, yet deeply human, roller coaster of a novel, spanning fifty years and nearly as many lives. From the lavish set of Cleopatra to the shabby revelry of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Walter introduces us to the tangled lives of a dozen unforgettable characters: the starstruck Italian innkeeper and his long-lost love; the heroically preserved producer who once brought them together and his idealistic young assistant; the army veteran turned fledgling novelist and the rakish Richard Burton himself, whose appetites set the whole story in motion-along with the husbands and wives, lovers and dreamers, superstars and losers, who populate their world in the decades that follow.
I thought that this was quite an enjoyable read but could have been a lot better had the author just taken it in a slightly different direction and cut out a number of the side stories that, I felt, were unnecessary.
There were too many characters from the very start, a number of which did not add anything to the overall book.
The main story of Pasquale was interesting and I wish that the author had concentrated more on that than some of the side stories.
While I liked the complication of the Richard Burton, love child, story and the characters in that, I felt that this part was not well written. For Example, I felt the author laboured the point of it being Richard Burton by continually referring to him by his full name, Richard Burton. It would have been better if the author had introduced him as Richard Burton and from then on just called him Richard, like with all the other characters. It became rather annoying to me as I got the point that this was a big film star and I knew his name so did not need to be so constantly reminded in full.
There were other parts that I just did not bond with in the story. However, on finding out that the author, Jess, was a man and not a woman, as I first thought, some of my issues made more sense to me. The parts that I felt were not believable or that did not sit right with me were coming from a man's point of view. When I reviewed them while trying to see them from a man's point of view, they started to make a bit more sense.
Not a complete waste of time and it flowed quite quickly in reading but not one to actively seek out. 3.5 out of 5 from me