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~Free E-pub ☢ Everything beautiful began after ♘ 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 FearGeorge 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 StuporHenry 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 Aboutd 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 Another staggeringly delicious read, another review where I m fumbling for the words to express how much I loved this book.In terms of plot, there s not much, technically three young ex pats meet in Athens, each hiding from a secret, hungry to loved At the start, I was briefly apprehensive this would be just a love triangle novel, American pitted against Brit, fighting for the French girl but I was so desperately wrong There s hardly a triangle, really, just three lonely people who love each other in differing degrees, wanting a family of their own But loss figures in greatly, and that s where the novel completely hooked me.This is certainly literary, philosophical fiction, but it isn t aloof or cold the story and emotions are very accessible The writing is poetic and brief, vignette y at times, but there s still a creative playfulness that made this than just a maudlin exploration of loss The point of view shifts from third person to second person I know, but it worked a chunk of the novel is told through a one way correspondence, each page replicating a sheet of hotel stationary I m hesitant to say too much about the story or characters, lest I give away something that is worth discovering on your own but I will say, each time I thought, now we must be done with the plot line, the rest will be pretty language , Van Booy surprised me with a small twist or revelation that cast the characters in a new light Don t read quickly savor this novel somewhere sunny because this and a rainy day is guaranteed to provoke tears I m finished reading, but not done with this book I want to linger a little and reread Frankly, I m hesitant to start anything else because I want the taste of this story to remain in mind. Everything Beautiful Began After by Simon Van Booy is a truly stunning book Vivid images cascade one after another but all serve to illuminate the characters and their past.Three characters dominate the story the classic French scenario of a woman Rebecca loved by two men But in this story, all the characters are dominated by pasts filled with loss abandonment and childhoods scarred in powerful ways.This image is a representative example of how Van Booy uses images to bring an immediacy to a present setting while simultaneously evoking a powerful sense of the past and deepening our feelings about the characters, increasing their texture without having them talk about their feelings Next to the wicker baskets, a mechanical ride on horse already stripped bare by the wind off the sea we are on the dock of a semi abandoned, dilapidated pier attached to a small, little known or cared for village This one image tells us so much about the place and creates a sense of how the characters will experience it and what may happen there for them.At the same time, the image also evokes the characters past, their childhoods which were stripped of wonder and magic and a sense of safety too soon a mooring which was barren and without love evoking the characters past, their childhoods already stripped of wonder love and creates a powerful sense for the reader not only of each character but also of what has drawn them together 3 adults who are also 3 very wounded children trying to find ways to create a self in a dangerous, unhospitable world, and to forge relationships with others.This image serves so many purposes, and does so gracefully, lightly, without hitting the reader over the head or pointing to itself with pride.And the book is filled with these images, almost consists of them, one after another but not so much in a linear sequence but in a shower It is noteworthy that Rebecca is a painter, in a text that is so visual, that uses words as paintings of moments One of the men is an archaeologist perhaps not the lightest touch but a telling one none the less as the characters both seek to excavate their pasts and bring them into the light of day, to make meaning of them and integrate them into a larger experience of life while at the same time, they seek to evade the truth, to run from memory and true sharing with or trust of others.This book is brilliant I feel lucky to have discovered it. Very few authors are able to imbue their words with beautiful, raw honesty the way Simon Van Booy can.This book these characters slayed me.Made me smile, laugh and weep.I am grieving the closing of the final page because I want to go on living with these people You are listening to a book You think it s pretty good it s taking itself way too seriously but it s still enjoyable You hear the narrator say Part Two and then suddenly the point of view shifts to second person You hear every sentence beginning with you You think it s going to be ok because you loved another book in second person You keep listening You start to get irritated You don t hear a narrative, you hear a list of sentences starting with You You already think the protagonist is wallowing self indulgently which isn t that great listening to begin with and now it s compounded by this horrible second person point of view You think it must work for some, but not for you You hope it will shift back to third person You are disappointed. So many disappointments in me right now.I don t have the energy or the patience to rationally talk about those bedamned disappointments right now How to say that the prose had me rolling my eyes times than it made me breathless How to say that I didn t feel as though Van Booy respected his characters to give them room to grow and not just mope for the purpose of displaying the author s dubious skillz with the language How to say that I am certain that a chunk of the book could have been ruthlessly chucked out, because that would make this better How to say that this could have been about love, but it wasn t How to say that this aimless novel made worse by the most egregious usage of deus ex machina I ve read in recent years Doesn t mean that if you re novel s set in Greece, ye have to use good ol Poseidon s fury, dammit SPOILERS AHOY I want to pull out all the spoilers here and say that there s this girl, and she s French and young and beautiful She goes to Athens, because that s what lost French and young and beautiful women do In Athens, she meets a George And then she meets a Henry And then Henry meets George And things get weird undercurrent y, like Henry saying, I will take care of you, George, you ll never be lonely again And me laughing And then an earthquake comes out of nowhere and kills Rebecca just when she tells Henry that she s pregnant, just when Henry and Rebecca have to decide on something and stop sightseeing, at least And me going WTF DUDE That decision taken away from them by a random earthquake yes, earthquakes are allowed to be random in real life, but, good lord, they have no place in literature if all they do is launch an unnecessary soul searching shiznit and gah and gah and gah And then and then, yeah, Henry breaks down, and George moves away, and then Henry and George meet again, and George is happy, and Henry isn t, and a lot blah, and then, and then, Henry brushes hands with this stranger and da dum, is it happily ever after post novel Desk, meet head Repeatedly. I chose this book out of quite a few It s always dangerous to go into a bookstore with no set title in mind I must have switched my choice at least six times before choosing this one and finally making it to the register And while I wouldn t say I m a huge fan of Proust or Swann s Way, reading the comparison between Simon Van Booy to a love child of Margarite Duras and Marcel Proust was simply too poetically shimmering a thought to pass up Throw in Greece, which I m always longing to visit, an archiologist the most stimulating and, if such a thing exists, sexiest of professions and I d found my latest novel.I loved several aspects of the book The overall omniscient narrative that switches between leading characters was nice, as everyone brings their own back story to the table and it s nice and efficient to know who s you ll be focusing on coupled with the varying nationalities of the characters The landscape and local color were as beautiful as the Proust Duras comparison had lead me to believe, and I even enjoyed the 70 or so pages of pen pal fax machine exchanges while Henry took a page out of Up In The Air and went from Heathrow to LAX and everywhere in between.But, what I didn t like was the lack of solidity between points in the plot I found myself unaware of the central plot catalyst until I was past it and had to go back to read a few pages to understand what happened to our heroine Rebecca Additionally, I had a hard time keeping time, as they book didn t start with a linear time frame despite the title, this still threw me, and I m usually a fairly observant reader, so than most I d wager And, over all, while realism wasn t the book s or Van Booy s purpose, I still found it distractingly difficult to believe no, than that, perhaps even sloppy to assume Henry s parents would think it appropriate to not hear from their son for a year, that George would quietly give up drinking or Rebecca s family would find out she was lovingly and romantically tossed in the to Aegean.More frustrating than all of the discrepancies combined was the chapter on Nathalie, Rebecca s twin, and her husband and little daughter We re told to question the girl s paternity, but the question appears all at once and is just as quickly dismissed Likewise, Rebecca didn t seem to keep a diary but it couldn t, as I imagined at first, have simply belonged to her mother So was Rebecca a liar Did she never work for Airfrance Why was this important at all except to slightly barely hinder Henry s inevitable recovery All in all, I enjoyed aspects of this novel but don t feel it was well formed enough to really call a novel I d call it glimmers And they were beautiful glimmers, but not joined enough to make a solid book I felt unfulfilled and a little exhausted after reading it, despite coming away with a mind full of beautiful black and white snapshots, the sorts with the scribbly annotations you can t quite make out well enough to give you a solid idea of who, what or when they came from, but just show you a pretty woman you knew about in a silk flower dress The novel takes place largely in Athens, Sicily, and France, but spans many continents and time periods, and is divided into the time before and after an event Before the event, in Athens, Greece, three people s lives converge in unexpected ways as they are all displaced in some way from a life they should be living, where they reside under the cover of shadows from their pasts or demons from their present.Rebecca, an artist, still feels the hollow wound of her mother s abandonment of her and her twin sister when they were children George, a linguist and American boarding school graduate, drinks to anesthetize himself from his loneliness Henry, an archaeologist, is trapped in a tragedy from his past that has never allowed him to fully live.The three of them meet each other in the decaying city of Athens and begin to emerge from their vacancies until a terrible incident changes everything Though their worlds are shaken, the experience leads to true spiritual awakening and appreciation for the tragic beauty of every moment in life.I knew from the moment I started Everything Beautiful Began After that I was in love I had to remind myself to breathe after the first chapter, not because of any jarring scenes or shocking moments those come later , but because of the language This novel feels like 402 pages of poetry, without a single gratuitous word Every sentence has weight, but rather than being exhausting, the reading is exhilarating I underlined half of the sentences in the book, and I know I will reread it many times.In addition to the elegant prose, there are several point of view shifts in the novel, not only from character to character but also from third to second person, that support both the thematic and character development There are also many drawings, post cards and letters embedded within the text that enhance the authenticity of the story.Everything Beautiful Began After is literary, philosophical, and spiritually rich but it is also very accessible, which makes it genius This is a book club book, and as it was recommended to me, I suggest to you that you read this book on paper An e reader can t possibly do its text features justice This is a book you ll want on your shelf to refer to and display so that people thumbing through your library can pick it up and get lost in it.I can t do justice to the perfection of this novel I want to call it a religious experience, but I m afraid I ll sound ridiculous or build it up too much for you I will say that Everything Beautiful Began After profoundly touched me It is a book I will carry with me and recommend widely Please read it and tell me what you think. Three meet in Athens one summer, maybe during the 1980s or 90s, something like that They become friends and lovers How is this to be resolved, with three Rebecca is French, a young and beautiful red haired Air France flight attendant, flaky, and an artist too,with dreams of one day attaining fame at her own Parisian art show George is from Kentucky, an Ivy League student of ancient languages He is addicted to drink Henry is an aspiring archaeologist from Cambridge, England All three are running from troubled pasts.Their pasts must be revealed, if we are to understand them, the central theme of the story being if the past can be laid to rest and resolution reached We learn of the three through flashbacks, but these flashbacks with innumerable shifts in time and place are confusing and give a choppy feel to the story.There are beautiful lines in this novel, but they are plopped in among many others that are ordinary The lyricism gets lost in the confusion of the surrounding text It is like a mixing of pearls and stones An ethereal tone, which I am sure is meant to be enchanting, becomes simply annoying I was left unsettled, as reading a mix of poetry, rote schoolbook text and mundane ordinary prose would make anyone feel Both the flow of the tale and the mood of the telling is choppy, resulting in a disjointed, pasted together mess A death occurs in the middle of the tale After this, what was bad becomes worse The whole story loses focus Thereafter, it skims the surface passing from one place and event to the next There is no depth Now I know that this was intended to mirror the character s bewilderment and loss, untethered, without anchorage as the person is perceived to be We are forced to float with him her I am giving no clues as to who this character may be Page after page, we follow the character around the world This section gives only fleeting glimpses of places and events It lacks depth, feels without substance and goes on too long Finally, we are told rather than shown how this comes to be resolved, summed up in a one liner I find the conclusion poorly executed, unrealistic and superficial I felt nothing for any of the characters The plot line is unsatisfactory and although there are some good lines, the jumbled fashion in which the story is told wrecks what could have been good prose There is not a speck of humor Rather than being literary fiction, the writing is perceived as trying to be literary fiction I also dislike the audiobook narration by the author The flight attendant s French accent sounds fake how typically a pretty French gal should sound The Southerner s dialect is exaggerated I wanted the words to be spoken clearly and distinctly Instead, an attempt is made to evoke am ethereal tone Not liking the narration, I have given the performance one star My dislike of the narration and the book itself are separate I dislike both My rating of one has not influenced the other. This may well be one of the most exquisitely written books of the year I can imagine that some may find Van Booy s style precious and maybe too elaborate, and I guess some could describe him as an acquired taste it seems that people don t write like this any, today and that, for me, is an immense quality I miss writers who are able to create, in some ways, a language of their own, who aren t afraid to be poetic without sounding pretentious or ridiculous , who want to enchant the reader through the power of words, and not just through a complicated plot Each word is there for a purpose, each sentence has a specific sound, and the whole novel has the haunting quality of a rare, very unique, mysterious perfume that you can t quite analyze nor define, but which you want to smell again and again I just love the way this man writes and how unabashedly romantic he is, although, to be clear, his romanticism, tinted with deep melancholy and sadness, isn t the one you find in cheap romance novels, but is of a purer literary essence The story is at the beginning at least deceptively simple Two men in love with the same woman, in an exotic, lush yet poor city of a country rooted in the past But things happen Life happens And then the story goes toward very unexpected directions there is quite a shocking turning point they don t always have the enthralling power of the first part, but, somehow, they do come together to create a cohesive whole, and they do work Van Booy explores the devastation of grief in ways that can appear unbelievable, and yet the result is quite emotional, and you do feel deeply for the character, as much as you want to shake him out of his dreamlike self destructiveness born out of a loss One of the most poignant, intelligent, and subtle aspects of the novel is how it dissects the internal lives of expatriates people who live in foreign cities, inhabited by a sense of wanderlust that is often linked to personal tragedies As an expatriate myself, I could only marvel at Van Booy s understanding of the situation, and how it feels to be an exiled, even if the exile has been chosen This book is quite a tour de force that than deserves the praises it seems to get from the literary world.