Thursday, July 28, 2011

Everything Beautiful Began After by Simon Van Booy

Title: Everything Beautiful Began After
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.


  1. Wonderful review! I need to get my hands on this book. It's amazing that there's been so much praise for a book without much of a plot. But it sounds fantastic.

    Please throw my name in the hat!
    diaryofaneccentric at hotmail dot com

  2. I agree with Anna! Great review and interesting that so many people love this and yet won't say much about it except YOU MUST READ THIS! :--)

    Please enter me!

    nbmars AT yahoo DOT com

  3. Consider me in, like always. Damn you, Audra! You do not help my addiction ;)your reviews have to tailored to make everything sound so good! :P

  4. Anna & Rhapsody: It's very inwardly focused but written so well, and the characters are so real, that what little happens is more than enough.

    Jessie: HA, I'm an enabler. Plus, this is totally worth adding to the list.

  5. Oh, I'm so glad you loved this! For some reason I didn't really realize that Van Booy had written anything other than short fiction, so I requested his first collection for my stop on the TLC tour. I'm going to dive into it this weekend and I'm hoping that I love it!

  6. If you compare her to Winterson then I do get interested :) I so loved one book I read by her

  7. I am reading another collection by him right now and I swear, it's taken me all year to read it! Only because I savor each little page, right before bed. I've stretched it out all year but won't be able to stretch it out until the new year as I am almost done with it.

    His writing is so simple, yet fluid.

  8. I love a book that you want to slowly savor the beautiful language and picture it illicits in your mind. This sounds like the perfect read for that!

  9. You know, I have been eagerly following this tour, and not one person on it has been anything less than in love with Van Booy's books. I also read one of short story collections and fell in love with his style and characters, so I know what everyone is talking about. I am so glad to hear that this one wowed you, and I would love a chance to win this book. Thanks for a great review and for hosting such a great giveaway!!


  10. All: What I should have put in the review that I loved this book so much, it's one of the few review copies I'm keeping rather than passing on to friends. I desperately want to reread it -- now!

  11. I really want to read this one. I'd love to win a copy, as the line at the library is already a little too long for my impatient taste:-)

  12. Wow! Compelling review. I would love to read this.

    lag110 at mchsi com

  13. I love the cover and I love greek food! Great interview! Thanks for the giveaway!


  14. I wasn't sure if I wanted to read this until I read your review, and now I have to! Thanks so much for a thoughtful review and an awesome giveaway:)

    jwitt33 at live dot com

  15. I'm absolutely dying to read this one!


  16. Yeah, there are certain books that are meant to be read in the sunshine!

    I'm glad to see this will be making your top 10 list. Thanks for being on the tour!

  17. Thanks for the wonderful review and giveaway!
    mamabunny13 at gmail dot com

  18. I've heard great things about this author. This glowing review makes me want to try out his writing right now!

    please enter me in the giveaway

    savvyverseandwit at gmail

    thanks for a great books written beautifully

  19. I've got this one sitting on my desk. Each time I pass by, the cover is calling to me. It begs to be picked up. Now I definitely need to do it.

    No need to enter me :)

  20. I have heard nothing but fantastic things about this author. I'm going to have to try his work, and soon :)

  21. Not sure if it's my type of book but all these positive reviews have me intrigued! Who knows, I may find another author I like!

    cytljjb @ gmail com

  22. I'm going straight to my goodreads account and adding this book on the tbr list.

  23. This book has been on my TR list, but now it's shooting up closer to the top. Great review! The shoutout from Harper Perennial was well deserved.

  24. thanks for the chance to read this novel :)

    kmkuka at yahoo dot com

  25. I'd love a chance to win Audra. This has been getting great reviews.

    bibliophilebythesea AT gmail DOT com

  26. Great review - the raves for this book are just everywhere! I must read it now. I'd love a chance to win a copy, but I'm definitely buying a copy now if I don't. Thanks for the giveaway!

    Jessica M.
    jmartinez0415 [at] gmail [dot] com

  27. That is quite some praise for this book!! I've heard other great things and really want to read this. I took this with me on vacation recently and didn't get to it, unfortunately, but I'll have to keep it at the top of the list still. I love a book that I want to just re-read right away.

  28. Sounds like an amazing book! I've been wanting to read more literary fiction.

  29. Please enter me in the draw!

    My email address is darlenesbooknook at gmail dot com.

    Thanks for the giveaway!

  30. quite a unique plotting tool ~ interested to read more...
    blstef1 at mts dot net
    found you on goodreads '')