BEGINNER’S GREEK by James Collins


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Part fable, part farce, a preposterously plotted yet ultimately charming debut novel.

Consider this a romantic man’s version of chick lit, in which love conquers all, everyone lives happily-ever-after and a guy and girl who are just a little too good to be true see fate triumph over circumstantial twists and bad luck. A short prologue sets a plot in motion that the rest of this overlong novel will eventually resolve. It’s a fairy-tale setup: Shy, young Peter Russell, pure of heart, boards a plane for a cross-country business trip with the same fantasy that he always has—that the woman with whom he is fated to fall in love will have the seat next to him. “Not just a young woman, the young woman: a really pretty, really kind young woman, and they would get to talking…and by the time they landed it would all be settled and clear. More happy, happy love!” Amazingly enough, that very woman sits next to Peter, starts talking to him (he’s petrified) and becomes captivated by him. They bond over her copy of The Magic Mountain, which he seems to remember in great detail (though it’s the only long German novel he’s ever read), and she writes her name and phone number on a page from it. But when he looks for the page, he discovers he’s lost it! All he can remember is that her name is Holly. Flash forward a few years and Peter is on the verge of a marriage of convenience, and Holly is inexplicably married to Peter’s best friend, a young writer of some renown who is a first-class cad. Why is the saintly Peter best friends with such a rogue? And why has Holly married a man who doesn’t deserve her? No matter. As the plot becomes even more entangled, Holly and Peter must ultimately be together, and it’s the novelist’s job to keep the reader guessing how this can possibly be accomplished.

If you loved The Graduate, you’ll like this.

Pub Date: Jan. 8th, 2008
ISBN: 978-0-316-02155-5
Page count: 448pp
Publisher: Little, Brown
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 2007