22 July 2011

Imprint Friday: Everything Beautiful Began After by Simon Van Booy

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.

Places where lonely people can live in exile of of their own lives—far from anything that was ever imagined for them.
Before I tell you more, take a look at the publisher's summary:
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.
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.

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 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)
And thus begins mature adulthood.

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 soufflĂ©, 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."
If you're like me, you're already on your way to the bookstore. Be advised: You'll want to stop back here on Monday, when I'm going to host a very special Van Booy giveaway, thanks to Harper Perennial.

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.

Everything Beautiful Began After at an Indie
Everything Beautiful Began After at Powell's
Everything Beautiful Began After at Book Depository
These links lead to affiliate programs.

Published by HarperCollins / Harper Perennial edition, July 2011
ISBN-13: 9780061661488


bermudaonion 7/22/11, 9:04 AM  

I'm very excited about this book!! It will be my first experience with Van Booy's work and it sounds like I'm in for a treat.

Michelle (my books. my life.) 7/22/11, 9:13 AM  

I loved this book so much. Great pick this week.

Sandy Nawrot 7/22/11, 9:39 AM  

Literate Housewife's review about had me salivating. It sounds like such a precious book. His short stories were a popular item at the ALL auction this year!!!

Beth Hoffman 7/22/11, 10:50 AM  

I'm so eager to read this one!

Veens 7/22/11, 11:14 AM  

This book sounds so good. I hope you enjoy it :)

Zibilee 7/22/11, 11:56 AM  

Love Begins in Winter was my first Van Booy book, and I think it made me a lifelong fan. There is just something so ephemeral about his writing and the way that he captures his characters emotions. This is a book that I would love to get the chance to read at some point. Really, I would love to read anything he's done. Fantastic spotlight today!

Teresa 7/22/11, 1:14 PM  

I am really looking forward to reading this one. I think it might sneak its way up in line.

Dorte H 7/22/11, 3:17 PM  

Hm. It sounds good, but I do prefer stories where people are REALLY lost ...

Dawn @ sheIsTooFondOfBooks 7/22/11, 9:00 PM  

I love his short fiction ... really looking forward to picking up Van Booy's debut novel!

Darlene 7/23/11, 2:44 PM  

This book sounds like a must read to me! Thanks for spotlighting this one!

Robin M 7/23/11, 8:46 PM  

Sounds great. I just received the book and will be reviewing it for TLC book tours. Now glad I did. Great write up. Thanks.

Literate Housewife 7/24/11, 2:41 PM  

If I could buy one book this summer for everyone I care about, it would be Everything Beautiful Began After. It's that special. Having had the opportunity to meet him in Richmond, I can say that he is just as special a person as his book. You couldn't be publicizing a better book or author.

Kailana 7/27/11, 11:23 AM  

I keep hearing really good things about this author. I had never heard of him before... I must have been living under a rock because so many bloggers love him!

Andi 8/3/11, 2:55 PM  

I'm a bit behind the curve reading this post, but I do love Van Booy and adored this novel. Glad to see it spotlighted here!

Unknown 8/4/11, 2:57 PM  

I really should read some Van Booy. I've heard almost nothing but universal praise for him!

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