“Beginner’s Greek” by James Collins

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.

4 Responses to ““Beginner’s Greek” by James Collins”

  1. Steph Says:

    Based on your review of this novel (and especially given the (favorable) comparisons to Austen), I’m definitely going to seek this book out… Given the recent book-buying binge I engaged in, I think I’ll put this one on my library queue! ;)

  2. Kate Says:

    Good. More books to add to my list–I had read a review of it and was intrigued, but not sure about it.

  3. SFP Says:

    I want to read this. It’s actually on the shelves in the university library. I can walk down one flight of stairs and pick it up anytime I want (no one else at the university has my taste in books). I’m glad you didn’t write about this earlier or I’d have convinced myself I needed to buy it or place a hold on it at the public library. :)

  4. girldetective Says:

    I recommend it from the library, because it is an odd book. The reviews at amazon run the gamut from love to hate. I hope my review makes it clear that this isn’t a book for everyone. It’s often so fanciful it’s almost ridiculous, and a few of the characters are well-nigh perfect. But I give it a lot of credit because I started unsure, and it won me over, as did pretty much all the characters, perfect or no.