Simon Van Booy’s Love Begins in Winter is the short story collection that made me realize there are short stories out there I very much enjoy reading. When I heard Van Booy had a novel coming out, I was anxious to read it. I received a digital galley through NetGalley.
About the Book:
Raised in France, Rebecca has moved to Athens to work on her art. Here she meets George, an expert in ancient languages and a translator, and Henry, an archaeologist in Athens on a dig. Both men are foreigners to Greece as Rebecca is: George is American, while Henry hails from England. The summer their lives converge is one that will leave them all deeply changed, in ways none could ever guess.
First, I must say that Simon Van Booy’s writing is exquisite. There is no other word for it. It is one of two traits that made me love his stories: He can make the most mundane of topics into something gorgeous. The subject of Everything Beautiful Began After is not mundane, and Van Booy does not disappoint.
The other trait that drew me to Van Booy’s short stories is the buoyancy his tales achieve. No matter the subject, they are wrapped in a feeling of lightness that highlights poignancy and emphasizes a kind of magic and happiness that I fell in love with. I was a little disappointed to find that rare quality lacking in Everything Beautiful Began After, which seemed to sink slowly rather than rise.
Everything Beautiful Began After incorporates some rather interesting elements. First, there are letters and pictures here and there throughout: missives between friends, children’s drawings, printed out in black and white amidst the pages of text. I didn’t exactly think this format was necessary, but it didn’t bother me. In fact, it added a faint hint of whimsy to a book of an otherwise very different flavor. Second, there are parts of the book written in second person: you do this, you do not understand that. I don’t think I’ve ever read such narration, and it was quite interesting. It worked, surprisingly, odd as I found the style when I first encountered it. It rather effectively highlighted a character’s emotional state. Both elements gave Everything Beautiful Began After a mildly experimental, original feeling.
Overall I am happy to have read Simon Van Booy’s debut novel. It was a lovely, bittersweet, and skillfully original book, if not quite on par, in my opinion, with his short stories. I definitely look forward to whatever Van Booy chooses to do next.