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Everything Beautiful Began After: A Novel

Everything Beautiful Began After: A Novel

Published by HarperAudio


Everything Beautiful Began After: A Novel

Published by HarperAudio

ratings:
4/5 (18 ratings)
Length:
7 hours
Publisher:
Released:
Jul 5, 2011
ISBN:
9780062114549
Format:
Audiobook

Description

“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.”

Publisher:
Released:
Jul 5, 2011
ISBN:
9780062114549
Format:
Audiobook


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What people think about Everything Beautiful Began After

3.8
18 ratings / 16 Reviews
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Reader reviews

  • (1/5)
    When one of the three main and unlikable characters died about halfway through the book, I decided I did not like the other two characters enough to care what happened to them, even though the setting in archaeological digs in Greece was somewhat interesting.
  • (4/5)
    A story about the suffering and tragedy which gives the perspective and maturity to fully appreciate life. The plot was a bit overblown but the descriptions were often elegant.
  • (2/5)
    This book had some nice flashes of beautiful description or exquisitely written sentences but overall: barf. A totally schlocky story. Disappointing. Made me want to go to Athens though.
  • (4/5)
    synopsis from the publisher:Rebecca is young, lost, and beautiful. A gifted artist, she seeks solace and inspiration in the Mediterranean heat of Athens—trying to understand who she is and how she can love without fear.George has come to Athens to learn ancient languages after growing up in New England boarding schools and Ivy League colleges. He has no close relationships with anyone and spends his days hunched over books or wandering the city in a drunken stupor.Henry is in Athens to dig. An accomplished young archaeologist, he devotedly uncovers the city’s past as a way to escape his own, which holds a secret that not even his doting parents can talk about....And then, with a series of chance meetings, Rebecca, George, and Henry are suddenly in flight, their lives brighter and clearer than ever, as they fall headlong into a summer that will forever define them in the decades to come. This is a difficult book to review because 1- I don't want to spoil anything and 2- it is an unusually written book.I loved this book, the prose was beautiful but it was also very sad throughout a large portion of the novel. While I thought it was beautiful and moving, I can see someone else hating it for the same reason I loved it. But to tell you why, would ruin the plot.So if you like your books to be traditional, this might not be for you. But if you have an open mind, you could possibly love this book.my rating 4/5
  • (4/5)
    “For those who are lost, there will always be cities that feel like home.

    Paces where lonely people can live in exile of their own lives – far from anything that was ever imagined for them.”

    I was going to start off by saying that I would pretty much read anything that Simon van Booy writes. And then I stopped and thought, this book is actually only the second book of his that I’ve read (the first being his collection of short stories, Love Begins in Winter – even announcing it to be one of my favourite reads of that year). So does that qualify? Perhaps. This is after all his first novel. And it is a beautiful one indeed.

    So I opened this book – or rather opened the app that opened this Net Galley e-book* – with a bias. I hoped, no, expected this to be a wonderful read that I would recommend to everyone. And it is.

    I was worried about writing this review-ish post. After reading writing like that, I despair at my own inane-ness (is that such a word? And, see what I mean?). Of course this book is a product of plenty of time slogging away at it, but I like to think that Simon Van Booy is like this in real life too. He gazes out at the shimmering Aegean, sighs, dips his feathered pen into the inkwell and writes rainbows.

    For there are many passages that I bookmarked or wrote down, many times when I stopped and sighed, other times when I stopped myself from reading too fast, but there were also moments where I had hit the Home button on the iPad and went and looked at something else. Some moments were a little too much for me. Perhaps I just felt too invested in these characters, especially Henry and his love for Rebecca. They had such a meet-cute moment that the reader can’t help falling for them.

    Before I go any further, I probably should talk a bit about the plot. It’s been talked about in the book blogosphere for quite a while already, but in case you haven’t heard about it, Everything Beautiful Began After is the story of George, and of Henry, and of Rebecca, and it is perhaps also a story of Athens and Europe. It is about head-over-heels, heart-bursting, all-consuming love.

    On George:

    “He looked the sort of man who had read all of Marcel Proust in bed. The sort who wanted to get up early but chronically overslept. And he walked slowly, hunched into a cigarette.”

    Here’s Rebecca:

    “She would live in exile with her desires. She would live as she imagined them on canvas, like faint patches of starlight: hopeful but so far away; compelling, yet dispossessed of change.”

    And Henry:

    Ok I hadn’t actually written a good quote about Henry, at least not one that would not result in a spoiler. So how about these lovelies instead:

    “Sometimes children not long exiled from that silent world of softness and gesture, can feel in their tiny hearts the nuances of what we say; and though powerless to act, they sense fully those means that creep like figures in a shadow play behind a screen of language.”

    “The beauty of artifacts is in how they reassure us we’re not the first to die.

    But those who seek only reassurance from life will never be more than tourists – seeing everything and trying to possess what can only be felt. Beauty is the shadow of imperfection.”

    “You will love her immediately. She will giggle at bright colors and movement, random things too – like bread falling off the counter. Later, she will run from you naked – refusing to get dressed. She will cry when you drop her off at school, then cry when you pick her up. She will scream for you in the night and not know why.”

    Right. A certain someone is chewing on my arm, telling me that computer time is up soon. So while I have your attention – and he is contented with my elbow – please read this book.
  • (3/5)
    The first part of the book was great. I loved the love story, probably because I have my own right now. But then something happens that changes everything and the book goes to a weird place and I felt a bit cheated.
  • (5/5)
    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.
  • (3/5)
    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.
  • (5/5)
    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.
  • (4/5)
    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 bathroom. Then you shower.”I enjoyed reading this book because it got me thinking about writing techniques, about how to extend the limits of voice, and about love, grief and the emotional fragility of human beings. I was reading an electronic advanced reader copy that had not gone through final editing and contained formatting errors, so the quoted passages may not be in their final form of the published book.
  • (5/5)
    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.
  • (4/5)
    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.
  • (5/5)
    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."
  • (2/5)
    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.
  • (5/5)
    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. – from Everything Beautiful Began After, page 401 -I wondered whether Van Booy had the ability to pull off a novel-length work. But I should not have ever doubted his talent. I loved this novel as I have loved Van Booy’s short story collections. This is a gorgeous meditation on love and human connection, a poetic piece of work which completely captured me. Readers who are drawn to literary fiction and who seek out novels that transport them, will not want to miss Everything Beautiful Began After.Highly recommended.
  • (5/5)
    This is a stunningly beautiful debut novel.Lyrical prose sweeps across every page and I was captivated by the lives of the three main characters. Their story begins in Athens, a most magical of cities, which the author brings to life in an almost effortless way. Rebecca is a gifted, beautiful French artist with a difficult past, abandoned by her mother. George is an American graduate who is an expert in ancient language. Unfortunately, he is also a master of alcohol consumption and he adores Rebecca. These feelings are not exactly reciprocated, but one drunken night leads from one thing to another. Although George thinks this is the start of something between them, Rebecca prefers to consider it as a big mistake, even though she loves him dearly as a friend. Then Henry, an English archaeologist, walks in to their lives. It is love at first sight for both Rebecca and Henry which obviously devastates poor George and he nurses his broken heart by turning to his old friend at the bottom of a glass. Somehow, the three of them still remain close…a special bond between them.Then tragedy strikes and their lives are changed forever. The author switches gear and relates the continuing story from Henry’s perspective, as an outsider looking in. Shunning family and friends, he embarks on a seemingly pointless crusade around the world to try and make sense of his life. This part of the novel is especially moving. Postcards, letters, faxes and even a child’s drawings are lovingly depicted in their original format which lends a sense of authenticity to the writing. Does Henry find what he is looking for? I wouldn’t want to spoil anyone’s enjoyment by revealing that here! Simon Van Booy has a wonderful gift. He describes the smallest detail with such care and attention which keeps the reader interested from start to finish. As an avid reader, I have rarely encountered contemporary fiction with such depth and emotion. This is award winning stuff……and deservedly so.This book was made available to me, prior to publication, for an honest review.