13 August 2011


 Young, beautiful, and lost, Rebecca has come to Athens to abandon herself to the city's strangeness and heat on a campaign to learn about love. Deserted by her mother and brought up by her grandfather in the south of France, she has never had an anchor to keep her from feeling constantly adrift.

George has come to Athens to translate. It's all he knows how to do. Dropped off at a New England boarding school when he was a child, his closest friends are Aristophanes and Jack Daniels, Euripides and Jim Beam.

Henry has come to Athens to dig. An archaeologist, he spends his days on-site in Athens, and roams the Agora on the weekends. Henry comes from a happy, humdrum Welsh family. Nothing has really ever happened to him.

After a chance meeting on a hot Athens day, however, George and Rebecca begin a conversation...that turns into drinks...then a few dinners...

Until Rebecca meets Henry.
And Henry meets George.
And Athens changes their lives forever.


I have been known to toss about flippant phrases to describe the books I read..."beautifully written", "imaginative and creative", "masterful", "eloquent".  Then I read something that sets itself apart and it's as if everything before it is cast in shadows, clouded in mists of fog.  From the first words 'Everything Beautiful' is lit from within by brilliant imagery and a lyrical quality.  Each sentence crafted lovingly, sounding like poetry, words that fairly beg to be whispered aloud in the deep of night just to hear their sounds.

On the walk back home through the dusk, she's going to ask her father for the story of how he met her mother.  All she knows is that someone fell and that everything beautiful began after.
Devouring this novel in a scant two days I feel almost spent, maybe a tad hungry for something just out of reach.  I don't know how to explain it but this novel has me dreaming and thinking and wondering in ways that I thought were long lost to me.  It's a dreamy read that feels soft...the action has a misty quality as if seen through haze or in fragments.  The main characters seem more like perfectly rendered sketches rather than fully realized portraits.  Yet it is this quality, this disconnectedness, where Van Booy writes from that lends this novel it's beauty, it's far reaching tenderness and emotion.  There are deep thoughts found laying among the pages of 'Everything Beautiful' like the relics found laying about the islands of Greece.  Scattered here and there gems of a literary quality glisten and beg to be kept.
There was a time before he met her mother.  It was before she began.  It was a shadow world with no significance.  A world that was breathing but without form.  She hadn't even been thought of.  She was dead without having died.
Fate is for the broken, the selfish, the simple, the lost, and the forever lonely, a distant light that comes no closer, nor ever completely disappears.
...a world intact, but abandoned.  You scramble down the words like ropes...you dangle from sentences.  You drop from letters into pools of what happened.  Language is like drinking from one's own reflection in still water.  We only take from it what we are at the time.
Each page leads you on, like a stream that gently gurgles into a larger stream, then into a river and on into the sea.  You continue the journey to see where it leads you, what magnificent wonder will emerge on the banks of the waterway.  Maybe an ancient ruin looms up unexpectedly, a modern disaster my await just around the bend...you can't imagine any of this but you want to know anyway.  You simply must know how it all turns out in the end.  And in the end you realize that "Everything Beautiful Began After".



Simon Van Booy grew up in rural Wales. He is the author of The Secret Lives of People in Love and Love Begins in Winter, which won the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award. He is the editor of three philosophy books, titled Why We Fight, Why We Need Love, and Why Our Decisions Don’t Matter, and his essays have appeared in the New York Times, The Daily Telegraph, The Guardian, and on NPR. He lives in New York City, where he teaches at the School of Visual Arts and is involved in the Rutgers Early College Humanities program for young adults living in underserved communities. He was a finalist for the Vilcek Prize for Creative Promise, and his work has been translated into thirteen languages.

His debut novel, Everything Beautiful Began After is out now.

* I received an advance copy from the publisher for purposes of review. I was in no way obligated to write a review much less a favorable one. The opinions stated herein are all my own.


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