Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Dreamlike Beauty of an Expatriate Life: Everything Beautiful Began After by Simon Van Booy

Everything Beautiful Began After: A Novel (P.S.)There is a dreamlike beauty to the expatriate life that Simon Van Booy captures perfectly in his debut novel, Everything Beautiful Began After, released today by Harper Perennial.

Rebecca, George, and Henry, have each come to Athens for different reasons, but all are content to become lost in its dusty streets and the hazy memory of antiquity. And it is a sandblown sort of fate that brings them together in that haphazard, thousand-causal-connections manner that typifies the joining of strangers in a foreign land and the binding of them together by common experience. But come together they do, and they eventually share an affection that is both real and enduring.   

When tragedy strikes, it is through these well-formed and emotionally-complex characters that Van Booy demonstrates how the intimacy of casual acquaintance and the despair occasioned by last goodbyes can hijack an entire life. Everything Beautiful Began After paints a portrait of a world almost outside of existence where affairs may capture the heart forever and the loss of a future once-envisioned can become all-consuming.

More than simply a painter of beautiful scenes, however, Van Booy is also a skilled professional. His prose is thoughtful and poetic as he describes Athens so vividly that the reader feels the dry heat of a noonday sun at the foot of the Acropolis. He cleverly plays with language, not just English, but Greek, French, Italian, and even Arabic, as a sometime reminder of how difficult it can be to communicate with one another, especially where the subject consists of our own pain. And though it takes some getting used to, the periodic use of the second person and the present tense allows the reader to share in the aimless wandering of Henry as he seeks some path by which to reenter the world that he once knew but has since lost forever.

Though it is sure to be enjoyed by the general public, in my opinion Everything Beautiful Began After is a must-read for anyone living abroad or with fond memories of having done so.


  1. Sounds like a fascinating tale & with the expat living sounds a bit like Lawrence Durrell, which in my mind is a good thing.

  2. Several of your points rang true, especially since I'm an expat in Belgium. I'll check it out - thanks for flagging!

  3. This looks great! I've heard a bit about it but didn't know what it was about until reading your review. Definitely want to read it. I lived abroad for a few months and would love to live in Europe permanently someday.

  4. As a current expat, I'd love to read this. Thanks for the review!