Tuesday, July 5, 2011


Literary Fiction
Harper Perennial, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-06-166148-8
Source: review copy provided by publisher (this in no way affected my opinion of the material)

It isn't often that literary fiction can sweep me away so briskly. So completely. Transport me from my reading chair, from the ordinary detail of my ordinary life, into another place and time--as if I was really there. Simon Van Booy's debut novel, Everything Beautiful Began After, did just that. And more.

The prologue relays the thoughts of an unnamed little girl who is remembering the story she'd been told of how her parents met, how they fell in love, and in wondering about this, she recognizes that there was a world that lived before her time and her parents were in it. There was a world that spun before her parents met, even. And that is the story that unfolds for us--the love that existed before the love that brought her into the world.

We don't know exactly how this little girl relates to the characters until the very end, though. Which personally I thought was brilliant. After reading the final page, I went back and reread the prologue, and it pretty much rendered me speechless. I had to give myself a few days before I could compose a review without it looking like a bunch of gibberish.

This is one of the most powerful stories I've ever read.

It begins by following three people who all happen to be in Athens, Greece at the same time, but none of them are Greek. Rebecca is a French artist. George is an American linguist. Henry is a British archeologist. How they all become inextricably tangled with each other in friendships and romance is fascinating. There is laughter, heartache, and adventure.

Then a major earthquake hits Athens, reducing large portions of it to rubble, and all three of their lives are permanently changed. What they do from that point on is where the real gut-wrenching emotion of the story takes place. Life is questioned. Love is shattered. Death is illuminated. Some of my favorite lines in the novel are reflections on life, love, or death (or any combination of those), such as this one:

But the dead don't come back to life. They sit frozen in our minds, finally free, capable of everything and nothing in a paradise where they can do no wrong.

Part of what made this novel abundantly swoon-worthy for me was the use of language. The poetic prose. But this didn't slow things down. The pacing was kept at a good, energetic clip with concise writing and short scenes. Seem contradictory? Read it and you'll see what I mean. I've never read such a snappy yet flowing style before. It's genius.

Everything Beautiful Began After is a strong contender for my "Best Read of 2011" in the adult fiction category. I highly recommend it for everyone, but especially for those who are reluctant to read literary fiction as anything more than a sleep aid. This story did just the opposite for me. Once I started it, I couldn't put it down, even if it meant reading into the wee hours of the morning. 5 of 5 stars.


Add Everything Beautiful Began After to your goodreads shelf and enter to win one of 10 free copies! Click HERE for details.


"Love Is Like Life But Longer", short film written by Simon Van Booy, directed by Poppy de Villeneuve


Jennifer Ambrose said...

Ooooh this sounds good! From the title on, you've got me hooked. is it forthcoming or already out?

Lydia Sharp said...

Releases today! :D

Anonymous said...

The book sounds great, I would like to read a chapter of it or so if I can, to see if I really want to though. About the video, I loved it. If Lydia Sharp was the one who posted it, please post another by those two people. I loved that video, it was inspirational.

Lydia Sharp said...


You can read the first few pages for free by clicking on the "look inside" feature on the Amazon page. I don't know of any other short films written by Simon, though. If I come across any, I will link them here.

Lana said...

can't wait wait to check it out!

Jolene Perry said...

I fell in love with this cover, and now I might have to push it higher on my MUST read list :D