Beginner’s Greek, by James Collins reads like an old-world romance brought into the modern world. Parts of it even read like a Greek tragedy, with the Fates intervening in lives before the two main characters can be together. The Chorus of supporting characters play roles that will keep the characters apart, and then bring them together. The need to do the Right Thing in so ingrained in the main character, Peter, that he thinks of everyone else’s happiness before his own. Peter’s deep-seated belief in romance fits with his honorable nature. At its heart, Beginner’s Greek is a novel about true love that runs deep, despite the twists of fate.
We first meet Peter Russell when he is on the plane flying from New York to LA. He has the heart of a true romantic, and is convinced that his true love will sit next to him on the plane. He has a feeling that this flight will be of great importance to his life. We wait with him, as traveler after traveler passes his row. When Holly sits with him, his observations and descriptions of her remind me of charming old world gentlemen, though he’s in his mid-twenties.
Peter and Holly bond over the book she is reading, and the magical “click” happens between them, connecting them into the magnetic pull of love at first sight. Of course, the Fates must intervene and work their magic, so Peter loses the piece of paper with Holly’s number on it. Unfortunately, she didn’t give him her last name, and therefore he has no way of contacting her. He tries everything he can think of to track down the number, and then he needs to return to his life in New York without having contacted her.
We skip ahead a few years, and find that Peter and Holly have been pulled together again, but there are always circumstances and honor keeping them from being involved. Peter is a kind, gentle soul, and isn’t capable of the devious machinations required to gain what he most desires, though there is a reasonably easy way of doing so. Peter’s depth of character and sense of honor make the reader wish that there were Peters out there for all of us! We also want to stand with Peter, and struggle with him – what choices would we make if we were in his place?
James Collins creates wonderfully flawed characters, and the imperfections give them life. Almost all the characters have areas in which they are deeply flawed, and other areas which are admirable. As time passes, we find that the machinations of the supporting characters leads to their (inevitable?) downfall or their turn toward honorable behavior. One scene in particular reminds me of myths in which Zeus is angry with a mortal – vengeance is wrought from above!
I cannot say enough good things about Beginner’s Greek. It’s got a feel that just warms your heart. Even when things aren’t going well for the main characters, James Collins writes such beautiful descriptions of their lives, their romantic thoughts, and Peter’s chivalrous behavior that you have the belief that the author and characters will do the Right Thing, and everything will end well.
If you enjoy the feel of black and white movies, old world romance, deus ex machina, or simply that true goodness is rewarded in the end, you will love Beginner’s Greek. If you like literary fiction, you will also love this novel – this is omniscient narrator done well! I highly recommend Beginner’s Greek to everyone – I wish I could give it to all the readers on my shopping list!
(as of 12/20/2007, this book is available for pre-order, and will be released in January, 2008)
This book was received from the publisher for review