Welcome to Imprint Friday and today's featured imprint: Harper Perennial. Stop by each week to be introduced to a must-read title from one of my favorite imprints. I know you'll be adding many of these books to your wish list.
It was almost a year ago that I first spotlighted Simon Van Booy on Beth Fish Reads. When talking about his short story collection Love Begins in Winter, I wrote "Van Booy's prose is lyrical and sometimes almost stunningly beautiful."
When I heard he had written a novel, Everything Beautiful Began After, I waited in great anticipation for its release. Still, I was worried about my expectations. Could Van Booy wow me again? I read the first two paragraphs and that's all I needed:
For those who are lost, there will always be cities that feel like home.Before I tell you more, take a look at the publisher's summary:
Places where lonely people can live in exile of of their own lives—far from anything that was ever imagined for them.
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.In Everything Beautiful Began After, Van Booy creates an almost dream-like mood, bringing the city and the three young adults together for an intense shared moment that leaves them branded. The novel is multilayered: a love story, a tragedy, a character study, a poem of Athens, a snapshot of a life.
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.
It's easy to fall in love when we're young and away from home, especially when we don't stop to wonder just who we're falling in love with. What do we really learn about someone in a few heady weeks? And when reality shifts, we are seared:
Things in your mind are shuffling into order.And thus begins mature adulthood.
And you realize that you've finally grown up. That youth has finished. In its place you have knowledge, which you must learn to carry. You must also learn to accept that death is most the sophisticated form of beauty, and the most difficult to accept.
From this moment on, you will always be conscious of what you are feeling. (p. 298)
Besides the language, characters, and story, I also love the design of Everything Beautiful Began After. Scattered throughout the novel are drawings, postcards, telegrams, and letters (on letterhead). Not only does this device give you the feeling of doing the forbidden—reading someone else's mail—but it strengthens your personal and emotional connection to the characters as they travel through time and place.
It's customary for me to quote three reviews when I introduce a book for Imprint Friday, but today I'm going to leave you with just one:
- Cynthia Ellis, writing for HuffPost Books: "Reading this book, the language is so beautiful and potent that you want to go slowly, savoring every word like a mouthful of the most delectable soufflé, but at the same time the momentum and passion of the story gallop ahead of you, taking you on an incredible ride, leaving you gasping, breathless, and barely able to hold onto your reigns . . . or spoon."
Simon Van Booy has been interviewed many times; Wales Online and Interview Magazine are both worth reading. Van Booy also has a website, a Facebook page, and is on Twitter. The Harper Perennial site includes a reading guide and Van Booy's tour schedule.
Harper Perennial is a featured imprint on Beth Fish Reads. For information about the imprint, please read Erica Barmash's welcome note posted here on June 18, 2010. I encourage you to add your reviews of Harper Perennial books to the review link-up page; it's a great way to discover Good Books for Cool People. And don't miss the The Olive Reader, the Harper Perennial blog.
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