Everything Beautiful Began After by Simon Van Booy
Author: Simon Van Booy
Genre: Fiction (Literary / Contemporary / Greece / Loss)
Publisher/Publication Date: Harper Perennial (7/5/2011)
Source: TLC Book Tours
Rating: L-O-V-E-D! Another to make the top ten of 2011!
Did I finish?: Yes -- inhaled -- I couldn't stop!
One-sentence summary: An exploration of love, loss, and the secrets that weigh and shape our lives.
Do I like the cover?: Yes -- it could easily be the two main characters.
I'm reminded of...: Lawrence Durrell, Jeanette Winterson
First line: Everything was already here and I was last to be born.
Am... I ready to reread this already?: YES. Gorgeous language and such a moving story -- I'm not ready to leave!
Am... I frantic to read more by Van Booy?: YES. This was his first novel (please let another come out soon!) but he has two collections of short fiction I'm desperate to get my hands on.
Did... this book make me want Greek food?: YES, no surprise. I also wanted my apartment in Athens, but spanakopita and a bottle of retsina from a local Greek restaurant was the most I could afford.
Buy, Borrow, or Avoid?: BUY! If you have any literary fiction lovers in your life, gift this to them.
Why did I get this book?: The cover. Honestly, I would beeline for it at a bookstore.
Review: Another staggeringly delicious read, another review where I'm fumbling for the words to express how much I loved this book.
In terms of plot, there's not much, technically: three young ex-pats meet in Athens, each hiding from a secret, hungry to loved. At the start, I was briefly apprehensive this would be just a love triangle novel, American pitted against Brit, fighting for the French girl -- but I was so desperately wrong. There's hardly a triangle, really, just three lonely people who love each other in differing degrees, wanting a family of their own. But loss figures in more greatly, and that's where the novel completely hooked me.
This is certainly literary, philosophical fiction, but it isn't aloof or cold; the story and emotions are very accessible. The writing is poetic and brief, vignette-y at times, but there's still a creative playfulness that made this more than just a maudlin exploration of loss. The point-of-view shifts from third person to second person (I know, but it worked!); a chunk of the novel is told through a one-way correspondence, each page replicating a sheet of hotel stationary. I'm hesitant to say too much more about the story or characters, lest I give away something that is worth discovering on your own but I will say, each time I thought, 'now we must be done with the plot line, the rest will be pretty language', Van Booy surprised me with a small twist or revelation that cast the characters in a new light.
Don't read quickly; savor this novel somewhere sunny (because this and a rainy day is guaranteed to provoke tears). I'm finished reading, but not done with this book; I want to linger a little and reread. Frankly, I'm hesitant to start anything else because I want the taste of this story to remain in mind.
*** *** ***
I'm thrilled to offer a copy of Everything Beautiful Began After to one lucky reader! Just comment on this review with an email to be entered. Open to US/CA readers, closes 8/19. For another entry, comment on my forthcoming interview with Simon Van Booy.