Everything Beautiful Began After: A Novel

Everything Beautiful Began After: A Novel

by Simon Van Booy

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“Apowerful meditation on the undying nature of love and the often cruel beauty ofone’s own fate. This is a novel you simply must read!” —Andre Dubus III, New York Times bestselling author of Townie

FromSimon Van Booy, the award-winning author of LoveBegins in Winter and The Secret Lives of People in Love, comesa debut novel of longing and discovery amidst the ruins of Athens. Withechoes of Nicole Krauss’s The History of Love and CharlesBaxter’s The Feast of Love, Van Booy’sresonant tale of threeisolated, disaffected adults discovering one another in Greece is thecompelling product of an inquisitive, visionary talent. In the words of RobertOlen Butler, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of A Good Scent from a StrangeMountain, “Simon Van Booy knows a great deal about the complex longings of thehuman heart.”

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780062079497
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 07/05/2011
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 416
Sales rank: 44,637
File size: 3 MB

About the Author

Simon Van Booy is the author of two novels and two collections of short stories, including 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 and has written for The New York Times, The Guardian, NPR, and the BBC. His work has been translated into fourteen languages. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife and daughter.

What People are Saying About This

Emma Straub

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.”

Robert Olen Butler

“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.”

Austin Ratner

“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.”

Andre Dubus III

“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!”

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Everything Beautiful Began After 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 20 reviews.
grumpydan More than 1 year ago
This is one of those books where you either love it or hate it; understand it or confused by it. It's a story about three lost people who meet in Athens one summer; a summer that molds their future. Although, beautifully written, I could not get into it as I become confused and then disinterested. But I do say give it a try since Simon Van Booy is a gifted author.
yourotherleft on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Everything Beautiful Began After is the story of the unlikely friendship of three people who meet in Athens, three people running from their pasts and trying to find themselves and create new lives in an old city. Rebecca, a shy girl and talented artist from the French countryside loses herself as she caters to her passengers on Air France flights. She comes to Athens to find inspiration for her painting and to find her true self that she had locked tightly away. George, from the American south, grew up in boarding schools where what love could be found was always at a distance. Even in Athens, he buries his sorrows and loneliness in liquor and his passion for ancient languages. Henry, an archaeologist, searches for the bodies of the long dead for clues to lost civilizations, but really is searching for absolution from an unspeakable tragedy from his past.Together, the three find the love and joy that have been missing from their lives. Their time together in Athens shines bright as the one time they can remember that they were all truly happy. However, when tragedy strikes, both the strength and the fragility of their bonds are revealed, the secrets of three people who hardly had the chance to know each other at all bubble to the surface, and send the characters on unexpected journeys that will change the courses of their lives forever.If a philospher and a talented novelist got married and had a baby, it would be Everything Beautiful Began After. At first the prose seems like it could be too much; too flowery, too overwrought, but then you realize it's kind of delicious and you want to roll around in it. At first, the dialogue seems the slightest bit unrealistic. You find yourself thinking, "Are there people that really talk this way?" But then you think that maybe even if people don't talk this way, they still could. Perhaps in a surreal Athenian summer ordinary people could give voice to the extraordinary thoughts rolling around in their heads that they might otherwise leave just as thoughts. Then you realize you are absolutely relating to these big things that they're saying that you don't imagine people say. Everything about Everything Beautiful Began After feels slightly exaggerated to great effect. There's a purity of emotion in it that will take readers by surprise, perhaps confuse them, but ultimately leave them satisfied.Van Booy's novel is a triumph. Athens comes alive in his hands, a place with softened edges that seems almost unreal and is the perfect context for Van Booy's tale. Van Booy doesn't settle for telling his story in just one way but easily shuffles between third and second person narrations, and even first person by way of Henry's typewritten letters from around the globe. Rarely have I been so impressed with a second person narration as I have in this book. It brings to life the immediacy of grief and the surreal distance that accompanies it. The book deals heavily in the pain of grief but never abandons moments of humor in favor of total melancholy. On the whole, Everything Beautiful Began After is a beautiful, richly textured work that chronicles the lives of three unforgettable characters brought together and torn apart by a summer in a city that will always feel like home.
graffitimom on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A book about relationships and presumptions. Nicely drawn characters, but I had a difficult time feeling connected to them; they seemed distant and too self absorbed. The main relationships formed too quickly, which was probably what set up the theme of not really knowing anyone well, even those you love. All of the characters had tragedies in their lives with which they grappled and shaped their lives.
MayaP on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is an extraordinary book, 4 books in one, each quite distinct from the others. The story follows a group of friends, three lost souls who meet by chance, in Athens and become inseparable, even by death. The story follows them through the years as their lives weave together, unravel, knit together again. All the characters are remarkably real; none of them are perfect, all have their share of everyday failings, all annoy and fascinate equally, all are truly human.Everything Beautiful Began After is the most poetic un-put-downable page-turner I think I've ever read. Often a book can be beautifully written, literary and gorgeous-of-language - and usually, such a book is a hard read, something to be taken in small doses. Other books are compulsively readable, so well-plotted you have to keep going long after you should have turned out the light and gone to bed, you have to find out what happens next. This book has both attributes in spades; an eminently readable thriller written in the language of a poet.I've rarely read so remarkable a book.
writestuff on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
On the way 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. ¿ from Everything Beautiful Began After, Prologue -Three people¿s lives intersect in Athens, Greece one summer.Athens has long been a place where lonely people go. A city doomed to forever impersonate itself, a city wrapped by cruel bands of road, where the thunder of traffic is a sound so constant it¿s like silence. Those who live within the city itself live within a cloud of smoke and dust ¿ for like the wild dogs who riddle the back streets with hanging mouths, the fumes linger, dispersed only for a moment by a breath of wind or the aromatic burst from a pot when the lid is raised. ¿ from Everything Beautiful Began After, page 11 -Rebecca is an artist from Paris who has come to the Mediterranean to paint ¿ but she is also searching for herself among the Greek ruins. George, a southerner from the United States who grew up in New England boarding schools, is also searching for identity. Brilliant in language, but lost in alcohol, he is looking for acceptance and the love that has so far eluded him. Henry is an archeologist who carries the guilt of his brother¿s death ¿ more than the bones of ancient people, it is forgiveness he really seeks. These three characters meet by chance, but are drawn to each other ¿ three damaged people who are looking for deeper meaning in their lives.Simon Van Booy¿s novel unfolds slowly, weaving back and forth in time, giving glimpses of the characters¿ lives and uncovering their secrets and desires. Readers familiar with Van Booy¿s short stories will recognize the themes of identity, love, grief and the power of human connection as familiar. Van Booy¿s prose has a poetic rhythm to it. He uses simple, yet powerful, sentence structure to create beautiful imagery, effortlessly drawing the reader into the world of the characters.One strong theme in the novel is that of fate vs. choice. Rebecca is not a believer in fate. Abandoned by her mother, she sees the future as a series of personal choices ¿ yet, she of all the characters, is the most impacted by chance. Rebecca told herself that she did not believe in fate. She believed that she alone was responsible for everything that happened to her. If there was such a thing as fate, she thought, her mother would be blameless. It would have been her fate to abandon her daughters. But it was not fate. It was her decision. ¿ from Everything Beautiful Began After, page 140 -Van Booy also examines childhood experiences and how they impact adult lives. Each of the characters has had childhood losses: Rebecca¿s loss of mother, George¿s loss of parental love, and Henry¿s loss of his brother. Those losses effect how each character is able to form connections to others and open their hearts to love. Van Booy weaves his narrative to allow the reader access to the characters¿ deepest fears by showing their pasts. Some of the most moving passages in this novel revolve around the parent-child relationship.A novel like Everything Beautiful Began After always risks becoming maudlin or depressing. But, Van Booy¿s talent carries the book from despair to hope. After every chapter of devastation, there is rebuilding. It happens without thought. It happens even when there is no guarantee it won¿t happen again. Humans may come and go ¿ but the thread of hope is like a rope we pull ourselves up with. ¿ from Everything Beautiful Began After, page 367 -Van Booy manages to surprise his reader with subtle twists and turns of plot. He gives his characters room to grow. He enthralls with simplicity and careful, eloquent description of the small things in life. And he is enchanted by the beauty of small things: hot coffee, wind through an open window, the tapping of rain, a passing bicycle, the desolation of snow on a winter¿s day. ¿ fro
Judith_Starkston on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book caught my attention because it is set in Athens and one of the characters is an archaeologist, topics I enjoy. Those two aspects turn out not to be overly central, but I¿m glad I read it. The narrative voices and the structure of the novel are inventive and very contemporary in style. Van Booy has created a masterful piece of fiction, although it is not an easy read. I found it disorienting at times, and sometimes the masterful demanded I take notice of the author¿s skill rather than lose myself in his characters and their world. So this is an excellent choice for those more interested in a literary tour de force than a story. At the core of Everything Beautiful Began After are three very flawed characters whose emotional crippling as children leads them to unusual relationships as adults. Love and grief take extreme forms that enlighten and intrigue the reader. The narrative voices, which vary with each major section of the book, are for me the author¿s most distinctive and impressive accomplishment, but also sometimes part of what makes this a challenging read. For example, Van Booy opens with a Prologue told in a very convincing child¿s voice. But because children care little for guiding anyone through their thoughts and they tend to jump through non sequiturs, my first read of the prologue left me very lost. Only at the very end of the book do we figure out (or at least only then did I figure out) who this intriguing child is, and we never get to know her beyond this brief prologue, although her existence confirms a pleasant working out of things at the end of the book¿a kind of ah ha! of understanding that fills things out for the reader in retrospect. Here¿s an excerpt from the prologue with this child¿s voice:¿Once there was a tree upon which she found something growing. Something shuffling inside a small, silken belly webbed to the rough bark. A white sack spun from fairy thread. She visited her magic child with devotion. She spoke quietly and hummed songs from school.Words at their finest moments dissolve to sentiment.She couldn¿t be sure, but her child in its white womb was growing, and sometimes turned its body when she warmed it with breath.¿I like the child¿s view through which we see a cocoon, which to the adult eye is far less of a mystery, and the dedication the child expends on it, true to many children¿s ways. I¿m less sure of the purpose of the line about words dissolving. This sounds authorial to me, not childlike. I did find many places throughout the book where I clicked a bookmark (I was reading on my Kindle) because I liked a pithy saying, a philosophical observation. This is one of those sort. So I have mixed feelings about it¿these quotable bits are often enjoyed but usually interrupted my train of reading. If you stop to bookmark, that¿s a good thing¿but maybe not so much if it means you got stopped. One such quote I bookmarked, ¿Love is like life but longer.¿ The narrative voice of Book Two is another of Van Booy¿s impressive literary feats as it shifts to a second person point of view. If you¿ve ever taken a creative writing class and been set this assignment¿to write in the second person point of view¿you will know that it is nearly impossible to do at all, much less effectively. In Van Booy¿s hands it definitely expresses the dire emotional state of his character. It startles us in a vivid, dramatic way. It gives an immediacy to the narrative. But it also, for me at least, constantly drew attention to the author and his writing skills. Here¿s a passage to give a sense of this highly unusual narrative voice:¿When you awake, you know that you have to leave but don¿t know where to go. Eighteen hours have passed, and you¿re tired of being asleep. You¿ve almost run out of money and you have no one to ask for help.You sit up in bed, you drink all the water from the minibar and then eat the almonds and the pistachios, throwing the shells into an empty glass. You can smell vomit in the bathroo
Beamis12 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I have had a hard time classifying this novel, the prose and his words are beautiful and vivid. But I didn't care very much for the story itself. I felt somewhat of a remove from the characters, and some awful thing happen in this novel the belies the beauty of the prose. Maybe that is the point though.
Carolee888 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The first time that I tried to read this book, I was completely lost and confused and that was after only eight pages! I put the book down and decided to come back to for a second try. The second time went better; I got through the whole book. It is very true that you either loved it or hated it. I did not like it. I cannot help my feelings. For me the first half was better than the second and I would have preferred to stop there. First, here is what I like about the book. The cover looks like a romantic story set in another country. Greece, was the best character, the heat of the country, the sadness of the ruins, the feeling of the city of Athens as a place which shown so bright in its golden time, but as the author put, has no future. I also love the feel of the paper selected for the book and the rough cut pages and illustrations including the copies of correspondence. Athens was the best character in this book. The second character that I liked was Rebecca. I liked the part about her training as a stewardess for Air France. I kep comparing her experience to my sister-in-law's training. I even found some humor in that part, but it never returned for the rest of the book. If there was more humor later on, I did not recognize it as being such. Now, what I didn't like. The book was not what I expected. From the first page to the last, there is for me a lingering air of depression. There were two other main characters, George and Henry. I have met I would have preferred that she met some different men. Nothing that I can do about that. After the first half of the book, and a certain incident happening, I felt that I didn't want to finish the book. I did go on because I was hoping that I would like it better. But it didn't happen. You can go ahead and read it, you may love it. But for my best friends, I cannot recommend this book. I received this book from GoodReads but that in no way influenced my review.
bookworm12 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The paths of three strangers cross while they are living in Athens. First there¿s Rebecca, an artist and former stewardess. Then there¿s George, a student of ancient languages who has fallen for Rebecca, but can¿t stop drinking. Finally we have Henry, an archeologist who is haunted by the guilt of his past.Reading this book is like walking into a dream. I was immediately swept away by the beauty of Athens and intoxicating love of the characters. That same enchanting fog makes it a bit hard to find your footing at first, but once you do, hang on, because just when you think you see how the story is going to unfold, the floor falls out from beneath you.The language in the book is just beautiful. I didn¿t realize it until I¿d finished it, that this is the author¿s first novel. Yet despite that fact, he managed to craft a story that weaves threads of hope, despair, passion, grief and friendship so seamlessly that you¿d swear he¿s been doing it for decades.This is one of those books that is impossible to talk about in detail without giving away important plot points. So instead, let me just say, I¿m so glad I read this. It just felt profound and so very human.Also, the book is filled with so many beautiful lines, here are just a few of my favorites¿"The ability to love Athens, like all love, lies not in the city but in the visitor." "The love of a man is like a drop of color into something clear." "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."
bolgai on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Rebecca, a gifted artist from a village in France, George, a passionate linguist and Ivy League graduate, and Henry, a dedicated archaeologist with a dark secret back in England, meet by chance in the middle of summer in Athens and their brief acquaintance becomes more than any of them could imagine - their love triangle is only the beginning. The cover of this book was one of the reasons I requested it. It seemed to go perfectly with the description and promised romance in an ancient city. Although the image is somewhat deceiving (if you look closely the two lovers' clothes would be more suitable for much cooler weather than Athen's sweltering heat) it is fitting for this book that seems permeated with that breathtaking feeling that pushes men and women into darkened niches and doorways to steal a kiss and an embrace in the middle of a leisurely stroll. It is so beautifully written that I literally could not put it down wanting more and more of the poetic language and the powerful imagery. The writing even remedied the fact that the first half of the book reminded me of the novels set in the 20s where everything seemed to be about aimless ambling of some youth in a foreign land. And then things got better. With the introduction of the love triangle the story immediately grew more interesting, more purposeful and I enjoyed the development of the relationship between Rebecca, George and Henry as well as the development of their characters. Van Booy describes them without really describing them in the way I'm used to seeing in other books. For example he says that George "looked like a man who had read all of Marcel Proust in bed." How great is that? You immediately get an idea of the man and you don't need a description of his height, build or haircut. They are to each other what they've always needed and while all three are interesting to me George is more so because he is so unusual. After all, a boy who translates ancient texts for fun is definitely not like anyone else I've ever read about. "The passions we cannot control are the ones that define us," he says. But George is dominant only in the first half of the book, the second half is all about Henry because more than anything this books is about adults finally growing up, making peace with their childhoods and themselves and it's his turn. The second half of the book is unusual in that it's told almost entirely in second person and it's mainly an epistolary novel told in the letters Henry sends to George via fax. The best part is that the faxes are actually images of the messages on letterhead, postcards, old telegram forms and Henry tells his story with such humor and detail that despite the brevity you get a very good idea of his state of mind and condition. He has to learn to love again and his journey is the longest of them all and the most tumultuous but those are the most interesting ones, aren't they? This was one of the more unusual books that I've read this year and one of the better books as well. If you like a good story, beautiful writing, interesting characters and rules broken the right way I think you will enjoy it as well.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
TalleyRoss More than 1 year ago
 Everything Beautiful Began After" was probably one of the most interestingly written books I have ever read. I chose this book from the Bookbub website mostly because I thought it had an interesting title. The title was indicative of the writing style. Van Booy uses wonderful imagery and clever construction of his story of three lonely people who meet on the streets of Athens, Greece and create enduring love and friendship. The POV changes in the story, while somewhat jarring, are used to help create tension and emotion. They were used in a manner I had never seen before. But while I liked and appreciated the style of the book, when you strip away the beautiful imagery and words, you are left with just a shell of a story. By the end, I felt let down that more wasn't accomplished in 300 pages. Essentially the bulk of the story happens in the first third of the book - leaving the rest feeling void and repetitious. Once you have read the story, you realize that Van Booy may have intended that reaction all along. But to me, that intention flies in the face of the title. If what was beautiful truly began after, then Van Booy didn't spend enough time on the beautiful and I was left feeling a bit cheated. If you love language and beautiful metaphors, and you are looking only for that, you would love this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
KTNorman More than 1 year ago
Picked this book up while traveling in paris. Couldn't put it down! The story was beautiful!!
LunaPrat More than 1 year ago
A great read for sure
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
thenightwriterSB More than 1 year ago
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.
LAURIE SCHWARTZ More than 1 year ago
A lovely, beautifully written book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago