EVERYTHING BEAUTIFUL BEGAN AFTER

Simon Van Booy

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,

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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.

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  • Harper Perennial
  • Paperback
  • July 2011
  • 416 Pages
  • 9780061661488

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About Simon Van Booy

Simon Van Booy grew up in rural Wales. He is the author of The Secret Lives of People in Love and Love Begins in Winter, which won the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award. He is the editor of three philosophy books, titled Why We Fight, Why We Need Love, and Why Our Decisions Don’t Matter, and his essays have appeared in the New York Times, The Daily Telegraph, and The Guardian, and on NPR. He lives in New York City, where he teaches at the School of Visual Arts and is involved in the Rutgers Early College Humanities program for young adults living in underserved communities. He was a finalist for the Vilcek Prize for Creative Promise, and his work has been translated into thirteen different languages.

Praise

“If F. Scott Fitzgerald and Marguerite Duras had had a son, he would be Simon Van Booy; this is a truly special writer who does things with abstract language that is so evocative and original your breath literally catches in your chest. This is a novel you simply must read!”Andre Dubus III, New York Times bestselling author of Townie

“Already a new-generation master of the short story, Simon Van Booy has now emerged as a newly minted master of the novel as well….Van Booy is a writer whose work I will forever eagerly read.”—Robert Olen Butler, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain

Everything Beautiful Began After both creates and satisfies a feeling of wanderlust. Van Booy’s confident prose carries the reader over oceans and back again, into archaeological digs and airport hotels, and the romance at the center of the book stays vivid long after the story is through.”—Emma Straub, author of Other People We Married

“A tender, earnest first novel….Van Booy wisely resists romanticizing torment, instead suggesting that grief — tied as it is to fate and faith — can give awy to promise.”
—Publishers Weekly

Discussion Questions

Which of the three storylines resonated with you the most?  Why?

 

Would you rather have Nico, Philippe or Chantal as your French tutor?  Why?

 

Josie finds it difficult to reveal anything about her illicit relationship.  Why does Josie keep lying – even to Nico, whom she will know for less than a day?  What allows her to finally open up to him?

 

Riley realizes that she doesn’t love her husband anymore, and she’s definitely not in love with Philippe.  However, she does love her mother, and “knows what she has to do.  Love doesn’t just sit around watching.  Love jumps on a plane and shows up”  (p 149).  In what ways have the people you love shown up for you? Have you shown up for the people you love?

 

Does Jeremy consider himself and his wife to be a happy couple?  How does his unconsummated attraction to Chantal change his feelings for his wife?

 

Nico’s poetry collection deals with the idea of multiple truths, multiple versions of the same events.  How else is this idea developed in the novel? 

 

What do each of the students discover about themselves during their encounters with their tutors? What do the tutors discover? How are they each transformed?

 

Paris feels like a character in the novel.  How do Josie, Riley, and Jeremy’s experiences of Paris differ?  What does Paris end up meaning to each of them?

 

What do you think is it about Paris that makes people fall in love (or in lust)?