Review #62: Everything Beautiful Began After


Everything Beautiful Began After



416 pages

Publication: July 5, 2011,
by Harper Perennial

Ebook provided by NetGalleyHarper Perennial publishers


First, a couple of introductory thoughts:

  1. This is the very first book I received through NetGalley, and I was so thrilled! Harper Perennial has great books, so I was very happy to be accepted.
    One little problem though: this fascinating book has some interesting formatting features, as it includes postcards, messages exchanged between 2 main heroes written on a typewriter or by hand.
    As I was reading this ebook on my ipod touch, the resolution was really bad for these features. So I had to download this book as well on a regular PC and read it with Adobe Digital Editions, to be able to read these documents – that you really need to follow the whole story.
    And you need quite a large monitor, otherwise you can’t see the whole page, even if you expand the software window as much as possible. So that was a bit of a hindrance.
    But of course if you read it on a hard copy, no problem
  2. I had run into the name of the author a few times, but as you may know I’m always weary at first about bestsellers. BUT when I saw this interview posted by another blogger, I just could not resist his charm and the charm of his way of talking. His writing is just as seducing, as this review is trying to convey.

This is so enchantingly written, like poetic prose, that draws you irresistibly into the heart, joys and tragedies of the characters. The author uses a lot of very short sentences, and short chapters. It worked perfectly for the story, like glistening shards of shattered glass. It worked perfectly to have you join Henry when he relearns the goodness and happiness of small things in life, when all his dreams are broken.

I enjoyed as well the change of tense and narrating voice when Henry finds himself at a major turn around in self knowledge and acceptance of reality.

There’s a lot of twists and turns in the story, as simple and complex as any human heart in a life journey. And when you think you know how a character is going to end up, well you are all wrong.

The descriptions of the Greek landscape and ambiance are marvelous, you can feel and smell as if you were just there. I happened to read Marcel Proust in French at the same time, and I have to say, the quality of evocation is rather similar, except that Van Booy chooses short sentences, instead of rather long ones for Proust.

This is my first novel by this author, and certainly not the last.
ADDED 9/1/2021. I recently, finally!, read The Illusion of Separateness. Same nice writing, but the book didn’t capture me as much

VERDICT: If you love great poetic like writing, and being enchanted, this book is for you, don’t resist any longer!


Simon Van Booy brings to the page his unique talent for poetic dialogue and sumptuous imagery in this his remarkable debut novel of love and loss, dependence and independence. Rebecca has come to Athens to paint. Born and raised in the south of France, Rebecca’s mother abandoned her and her sister when they were very young, left to be raised by her loving yet distant grandfather. Young and lost, she seeks solace in the heat of Athens. George has come to Athens to translate language. Dropped off at a New England boarding school when he was a child, he has close to no relationships with anyone, except the study of ancient language and alcohol. Henry has come to Athens to dig. An archaeologist, Henry is on-site at Athens during the day, and roams the Agora on the weekend. Three lost and lonely souls whose worlds become inexorable enmeshed with consequences that ripple far among the ruins of ancient Athens. [Goodreads]


Simon Van Booy was born in London and grew up in rural Wales and Oxford. After playing football in Kentucky, he lived in Paris and Athens. In 2002 he was awarded an MFA and won the H.R. Hays Poetry Prize. His journalism has appeared in magazines and newspapers including the New York Times and the New York Post. Van Booy is the author of The Secret Lives of People in Love, now translated into several languages. He lives in New York City, where he teaches part-time at the School of Visual Arts and at Long Island University. He is also involved in the Rutgers Early College Humanities Program (REaCH) for young adults living in underserved communities. [Goodreads]

To read more, you can visit the author’s website.


“For those who are lost, there will always be cities that feel like home.” chap.1

“Those who seek only reassurance from life will never be more than tourists -seeing everything and trying to possess what can only be felt.” chap.1

“He looked the sort of man who had read all of Marcel Proust in bed.” chap.2

“Loneliness is like being the only person left alive in the universe, except that everyone else is still here.” chap.8

“And then thousands of remembered moments -like birds flapping their wings inside your skull.” chap.55



12 thoughts on “Review #62: Everything Beautiful Began After

  1. I know I’m in the minority of people who didn’t like the book. The 2nd person pov totally threw me out of the story. Admittedly, his writing is poetical and he know how to turn a phrase. However, it wasn’t enough for me. Thanks for stopping by.


    • I’m actually French, and the 2nd person style is not unusual in French novels, so that did not bother me, I even found this added an extra dimension to the narrative -as if the hero was distancing himself to assess things and start all over again, little by little. Just my thought


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