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Everything Beautiful Began After: A Novel Paperback – Deckle Edge, July 5, 2011

3.8 out of 5 stars 64 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Van Booy, a Frank O'Connor International Short Story award winner (for Love Begins in Winter), offers a tender, earnest first novel, in which flight attendant Rebecca Baptiste moves to Athens, Greece, where she meets George Cavendish, an American with a passion for languages and drinking. Their romance blooms quickly, but when Rebecca falls for a Welsh archeologist named Henry, George drinks so much that he stumbles in front of a car—Henry's car. Without knowing what they share, Henry tends to George's injuries, cementing an immediate and long-lasting alliance. But some time later, George sees Rebecca with Henry, and the shock of recognition leaves these three sensitive souls shaken, snapping George into sobriety and sending Henry adrift. When Henry finally returns two years later, after a devastating earthquake, both he and Athens have changed dramatically. Finally, his discovery of a journal that may have belonged to Rebecca makes him wonder how well he knew her. The rhythms of Henry's tender, damaged heart propel the narrative, and Van Booy wisely resists romanticizing torment, instead suggesting that grief—tied as it is to fate and faith—can give way to promise. (July)

Review

“A swift and engaging story...” (Wall Street Journal)

“His prose is music, and his characters are warmhearted, gentle, bemused, philosophical beings….It’s as if Shakespeare’s Sonnet No. 30 has unfolded into a full-blown novel.” (Austin Ratner, The East Hampton Star)

“Van Booy’s writing rings with the proverbial pithiness of Oscar Wilde, the elegance of F. Scott Fitzgerald, the clarity of Graham Greene and the wit of Evelyn Waugh, conjuring a strong voice full of poetic, timeless grace of which much of the contemporary literary scene is starved.” (San Francisco Examiner)

“Van Booy’s writing seduces from the first page….He is a hugely gifted writer. More vitally, he has something to say.” (Portland Press Herald)

“There is...an integrity to [Van Booy’s] vision and a haunting element in his portrait of friendship and, ultimately, resolution.” (Daily Mail (London))

“[T]he exquisite prose and heartbreaking (but never hopeless) emotional honesty make it a worthy read.” (Daily Candy)

“Vivid and meticulous...the floweriness of his prose is skillfully balanced by his short, precise sentences. Intriguing.” (Metro (London))

“Atmospheric and anchored in its place. A book that is timeless but not rootless. Everything Beautiful Began After is highly sophisticated and absolutely sincere.” (Irish Times)

“How lovely to encounter a grownup romantic in Simon Van Booy….[He] is a lovely writer, and Everything Beautiful Began After is a kind book.” (Open Letters Monthly)

“Beautifully written, touchingly told, Van Booy radiates pain, fears, love and freedom on every page of this book.” (Passport)

“A tender, earnest first novel....Van Booy wisely resists romanticizing torment, instead suggesting that grief -- tied as it is to fate and faith -- can give awy to promise.” (Publishers Weekly)

“If F. Scott Fitzgerald and Marguerite Duras had had a son, he would be Simon Van Booy; this is a truly special writer who does things with abstract language that is so evocative and original your breath literally catches in your chest. This is a novel you simply must read!” (Andre Dubus III, New York Times bestselling author of Townie)

“Already a new-generation master of the short story, Simon Van Booy has now emerged as a newly minted master of the novel as well….Van Booy is a writer whose work I will forever eagerly read.” (Robert Olen Butler, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain)

Everything Beautiful Began After both creates and satisfies a feeling of wanderlust. Van Booy’s confident prose carries the reader over oceans and back again, into archaeological digs and airport hotels, and the romance at the center of the book stays vivid long after the story is through.” (Emma Straub, author of Other People We Married)
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; Original edition (July 5, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061661481
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061661488
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.9 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (64 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #464,123 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This one-star rating has nothing to do with the book itself, which I thoroughy enjoyed. However, this novel is completely inappropriate for the Kindle. It includes a number of replicas of letters and postcards that are integral to the story, and I found it all but impossible to decipher them on the Kindle. Although I enlarged them as much as I could, I still had to use a magnifying glass to read them, and even then it was difficult. Amazon should really offer a caveat to those purchasing the Kindle version of this book. If I had known, I would definitely have ordered a hard copy, which I assume would have been easier to read.

Having said that, the book is intriguing, the characters are well-drawn, and the writing is good. It would be well worth reading on a conventional reader.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is the first Van Booy novel that I read. That is also because Amazon recommends it to me. However, after reading the novel......I can just say one word.. awesome. I am not saying that the story by itself is fascinating...or it is interesting in the sense that it has lots of twists and turns. In fact, the story is fairly straightforward. The novel truly enunciates the fact that you can tell a simple story in simple way to make it `EXTRAORDINARY'. I generally don't read romantic novels. But it's the style of writing that did the work for me. I strongly recommend this book to all those readers who really like to read good books. Trust me...you will not be disappointed.
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Format: Paperback
I fell in love with Everything Beautiful Began After after having just read the Prologue and the rest of the book did not disappoint. Simon Van Booy's beautiful poetic language is stunning and his descriptions require the reader to pause and take a deep breath to take them in. The characters are so well developed that one cannot help but love and care deeply for them. It is fascinating to watch as they argue over the existence of fate while we quietly witness fate take its toll on each of them. There is a sense of unpredictability, an unknowing that keeps the pages turning. Van Booy's use of different points of view also adds depth to this novel. It was a genius way to create various space and distance between the reader and the characters. The cover and deckle-edged paper provides the perfect package for such a beautiful and tragic love story.

The ending felt a bit rushed to me and things seemed to be tied up a little too perfectly in the end. This may be that I just didn't want the book to end. I was invested in these characters and wanted to spend more time with them. However, at over 400 pages, I understand Van Booy had to end the book at some point. Maybe he will write a sequel! If you want to be swept away into a beautiful love story with writing that literally takes you there as a silent witness to the unfolding lives of the characters, this book is definitely for you. I wanted to continue inside the world Van Booy created with this novel so much that I actually got up in the middle of the night, unable to sleep because I couldn't stop thinking about it, and continued reading until it was finished.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I just Loved the prose within this book, I just inhaled every page..Beautiful story line except for one thing..If you order the kindle version there are letters within the book that are IMPOSSIBLE to read so I missed out on quite a bit. Don't think this can be rectified unfortunetly.
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By Annie on February 18, 2015
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Having read and enjoyed The Illusion of Separateness by Simon Van Booy I have no doubt he is a good writer but he lost me with Everything Beautiful Began After.
The writing is fine but the plot left me cold. For me there was something missing for the entire book that I just could not quite put my finger on.
The three main characters are simply not real enough and I couldn't quite "get" why George had to have a drinking problem...why Rebecca had to vanish so dramatically quite early in the book and why Henry acted in such a bizarre way in his grief. My goodness....he barely knew the woman and yet it took two years of utter madness to come to terms with his loss.
Nothing in the plot really adds up and if there was a hidden message here I didn't get it.
Perhaps that is my downfall but I couldn't recommend this rather weak attempt at something I'm not quite sure of!!!
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Format: Paperback
Everything Beautiful Began After is a tale of the before and after in the lives of three characters, expatriates living in Athens. Simon Van Booey's writing is smooth, and at times beautiful, and it seems that he spent as much effort crafting the structure of the novel as he did its language. I enjoyed the simplicity of the three character structure. Each character has a secret or a past event or events that have dominated his or her life to the point where they meet. The three characters converge and enter a symbiotic existence, but at the exact halfway point of the book, the climactic event shakes up (in the literal sense as to the characters) both the rhythm and structure of the book and the lives of the characters. At this point, "Book One" ends, perhaps too cleverly with an announcement, "End of Book One" and the writing style shifts from a tender love story to (a) Book Two, an examination of grief, complete with letters and faxes, ending with a return to the home-away-from-home, Athens, (b) Book Three, a reluctant, gradual attempt at rebuilding, that is abruptly shattered by another revelation that causes Henry, the main character of that section, to revisit the entire premise of the events of Books One and Two, and then find himself faced with a near-tragic opportunity that will enable him to let go of all of the baggage he has carried to date (baggage being a metaphor throughout the book), and (c) Book Four a somewhat too neat conclusion.

I very much enjoyed the book, but at times the structure seemed too forced and got in the way of my ability to focus on the progression of the lives, transformation and mental state of the characters. That said, I recommend Everything Beautiful Begins After as a provocative, read that uses deceptive simplicity to convey a profound examination of inner life.
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