Simon Van Booy has been a sentimental favorite of mine ever since his first short story collection, The Secret Lives of People in Love, came through when I was editing the Estella's Revenge E-Zine. Nancy from Bookfoolery and Babble adored it, and I followed shortly after.
I've said from the beginning that Van Booy has an old world feeling in his writing, and this one delivered in that regard. Set in Athens, Henry is a genius, drunkard, American, in love with Rebecca. Rebecca is a French ex-flight attendant, artist, in love with Henry. Henry is a British archaeologist, hottie, tortured soul.
And they're all tortured souls in some way-- haunted by death, betrayal, and crappy family. They find each other in a twisted love triangle heightened by the unlikely friendship that grows between George and Henry. Going into this novel, and from reading the blurbs, I really thought it would be about the love triangle. And that's not new! But it really isn't so much. A REALLY BIG EVENT, which I won't talk much about for fear of spoilers, changes the trajectory of this novel in a big, big way. All of a sudden it was no longer about a triangle, and it morphed into more of a story of triumph and overcoming grief and insurmountable psychological trauma.
This novel was gri-tty in spots. It wrung me out and left me feeling a little dazed, in fact. I seem to have read two of the most emotional novels I've ever had in my hands within a week of each other! ROOM made me tear up, as did this one, and both were laced with moments when I cringed, or cursed the characters in my head, or just felt downright pissed at the story arc. In a good way. I was invested.
Van Booy's writing shines in this one just has it has in his short stories. Because he does a good bit of description and sweeping figurative language, I was actually a little distressed that it would be too wordy and drawn out in the beginning. I was wrong, though! Dead wrong. The beautiful writing really helped sweeten the darker moments in this novel.
While I could pull out some quotes from the novel, I'm both lazy and a visual learner, so I'll share a video of Simon reading one of his short stories instead. His accent is dreamy, eh?
If you've ever wanted to try Simon Van Booy's work, you can't really go wrong with his short stories or this novel. But if you're more of a novel fan, I can't imagine that you wouldn't like Everything Beautiful Began After. If you don't like it, come back here and we'll Jello wrestle until I convince you.
Snuggle -- Skewer
- Pub. Date: July 1, 2011
- Publisher: Harper Perennial
- Format: e-book
- ISBN-13: 978-0061661488
- Source: NetGalley