Already, the departing tide of his day had taken him far from his betrothed and any thoughts of her. As usual, though, from time to time throughout the day’s voyage he saw in the distance the most beautiful mermaid, sunning herself on a rock, plashing into the sea and rising up again. Against the sun her smoothed head looked like a paper silhouette. It must be said that the creature did not resemble [his betrothed], nor, however, was she mythical in her appearance. Even at a distance, Peter recognized her. He would be seeing her that evening, along with his despicable best friend, the writer Jonathan Speedwell.
Beginner’s Greek, the first novel by James Collins, was recommended by Entertainment Weekly, New York Times and the National Book Critics’ Circle blog (here and here.) It’s an odd book at first, because of its mannered prose and mix of characters and situations both believable and un-. Yet it quickly won me over as I realized it was an old-fashioned novel mixing social satire, romance, concerns about money and social status, heroes, villains, fate, and free will. I was reminded strongly of the novels of Jane Austen. It’s funny and sweet without being saccharine, with some dark shadows for contrast. I enjoyed it a great deal.