‘Beginner’s Greek’ Proves Cinematically Wonderful

November 14, 2008 at 4:08 pm 6 comments

Author’s Note:Because I feel rather like all the books I write about are slightly stodgy nonfiction books, I give you a review I wrote for my school paper last year on a much more people-friendly book called Beginner’s Greek.

One of the many complimentary things I can say about Beginner’s Greek by James Collins is that it is undoubtedly the most cinematic book I have ever read. Never before have I been struck within the first few pages so forcefully that the book I was holding in my hands should undoubtedly be a movie. It was like love at first sight, appropriately enough, except it was movie at first sight.

Beginner’s Greek is, at its gushy heart, a romance novel. Before utterly turning you off with that statement, let me say it is a romance novel in the same way that Pride and Prejudice is a romance novel. Beginner’s Greek is the story of a man, Peter, who has been idealistically waiting all his life to fall in love at first sight. He decides that this will happen most easily on a long airplane flight since there is plenty of time for the first spark, a friendly conversation, some flirting and the creation of a genuine bond between two people. The book begins when his adorable, though unrealistic, view of falling in love actually occurs. Peter falls in love with Holly and then, in a cruel twist of fate – one of many scattered painfully throughout the novel – he inexplicably loses her number. The rest of the book takes us on an almost painful journey as Peter and Holly try to recover their lost love through a series of increasingly unbelievable and unfortunate events.

It sounds sappy, but it really is quite good. It is a quick, light read that I thoroughly enjoyed over spring break. The only downfall of an otherwise happy book is that author James Collins goes a little too far. There are just one too many unfortunate events to keep our lovers apart. The whole book is comprised of various events that keep them apart, open up opportunities for them to be together and then create something else to keep them apart. It’s all very frustrating since almost none of the events are the characters’ fault. At least in any good Austen novel you can hope for some personal growth that will allow the characters to finally be together. Collins’ novel is not that kind of book.

Beginner’s Greek is a book about Fate, and the reader, like the characters themselves, must keep believing in Fate and that it ultimately will do good in the end. Repeating to myself, “My gosh, there simply must be a happy ending to this,” was really what got me through it at the end of the day, especially towards the end, when Collins apparently couldn’t keep himself from throwing in that one last “keep them apart” event. A reader’s incredulity and frustration can only be suppressed so long, Mr. Collins.

Presumably, Beginner’s Greek will soon be coming to a cinema near you – for how could it not with such writing and positive belief in Fate? – but I recommend reading the book first. It’s optimistic and touching; it lets you get into the heads of the characters and really feel for them as movies cannot do, no matter how many voice-overs the filmmaker helpfully provides. And if there are things every Smithie needs at this time of the semester, if not always, they are friendly happy endings and a good dose of optimism.


Entry filed under: Contemporary Fiction, Romance and Chick Lit.

Books About Books Romance and forests (and maybe a few vampires)

6 Comments Add your own

  • 1. KT  |  November 17, 2008 at 4:36 pm

    Sounds adorable!

    PS: I know I’m lame, but I finally got assigned an essay and now I’m panicking (like ya do) and praying that this job that I finally got an interview for rejects me. Because apparently now people need 20 sources for English papers. DAMN Canisius for making me think my opinions mattered more than scholarly research…

  • 2. Corey  |  November 18, 2008 at 3:26 am

    It is pretty adorable. That is probably the perfect word. Perhaps in cahoots with “fluffy.”

    Ooo! A job! What is it and where is it? And what’s the paper on? I’ll try to reply to your e-mail soon, but I rather crazily decided to participate in National Novel Writing Month in addition to having my Oxford application due on Sunday and asking for more to do at work (and getting it!), so I’m having a bit of a crazy time!

  • 3. KT  |  November 18, 2008 at 2:29 pm

    Ugh, the problem with the paper is that I’m not sure what it’s going to be on. I have one that I think I am going to do on the shift from foreign settings and people in gothic novels to domestic settings and women in sensation novels, but then I have one on Alice in Wonderland that I was going to do on identity and consumption until I realized there is NOTHING out there. So now I think it’s going to be on physical identity as it relates to Alice’s concept of self. And women. Or something :P

    I am so jealous of your NaNoWriMo participation! Is this the story you let me read part of before, or a new one?

    Also, if all our plans fail, I say we pull a Leonard/Virginia Woolf and open our own publishing company. Because that’s totally possible.

  • 4. Corey  |  November 18, 2008 at 3:57 pm

    My god you sound deep! Good luck being amazingly intellectual over in Eire! I miss school! I was going through my old, beloved backpack and I found these post-it notes from some long-forgotten history class and the notes all sounded so wonderfully academic and brainy. I missed school-me and that brain! So I hope you're reveling in your current intellectualism and graduate school as a whole. It sounds so wonderful vicariously!

    NaNoWriMo is something entirely new because you can't use any old material. It's a silly little mystery about a history professor named Martha Wigglesworth. The names might just be the best part. :)

    And, heck yes! Let's open a bookstore/publishing company a la Shakespeare & Co. in Paris! It'll be wonderful!

  • 5. Library Loot: Week of October 6 | Literary Transgressions  |  October 10, 2014 at 10:36 am

    […] Indie Next list from IndieBound, not Book Riot, but all the same it sounds super-charming and very Beginner’s Greek-ish. I haven’t actually seen many books in that ilk (i.e. novels that are unapologetically […]

  • […] a cute story and one very much in the same mold as James Collins’ Beginner’s Greek: romantic comedy novels approaching the subject of modern love with an immovable faith in romance. […]


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