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Beginner's Greek: A Novel

Beginner's Greek: A Novel

3.6 29
by James Collins

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Is love at first sight possible or just an old-fashioned romantic idea? And what if, to further complicate things, you meet the love of your life and then lose her phone number? Then what if, after the impossible happens and you find her again, she's now about to marry a roguish lothario who is also your best friend? The complications don't end there for


Is love at first sight possible or just an old-fashioned romantic idea? And what if, to further complicate things, you meet the love of your life and then lose her phone number? Then what if, after the impossible happens and you find her again, she's now about to marry a roguish lothario who is also your best friend? The complications don't end there for Peter Russell, the winning hero of James Collins' charming, generous, and romantic first novel. Part modern-day Jane Austen, part Tom Wolfe, Beginner's Greek is a romantic comedy of the highest order, with characters who are perfectly, charmingly real as they swerve and stumble from fairy tale to social satire and back again.

Editorial Reviews

"A sparkling first novel."
Adriana Trigiani
"A romantic, funny, and insightful page-turner."
Boston Globe
"Clever, romantic, and fun."
author of Heyday Kurt Andersen
"A rare delight: a smart, elegant, madly romantic comedy with characters who seem perfectly, charmingly real."
Vanity Fair
"A satire of modern love that will charm both sexes equally."
The New Yorker
"An unabashedly romantic début."
New York Times Book Review
"Beginner's Greek is, from start to finish, delicious."
From the Publisher
"A sparkling first novel."—Time"

A romantic, funny, and insightful page-turner."—Adriana Trigiani, author of Lucia, Lucia and Big Stone Gap"

Clever, romantic, and fun."—Boston Globe"

Jane Austen fans will feel right at home."—Library Journal"

A rare delight: a smart, elegant, madly romantic comedy with characters who seem perfectly, charmingly real."—Kurt Andersen, author of Heyday"

A satire of modern love that will charm both sexes equally."—Vanity Fair"

An unabashedly romantic début."—The New Yorker"

Beginner's Greek is, from start to finish, delicious."—New York Times Book Review

Publishers Weekly

The two young professionals of Collins's polished debut, Holly and Peter, meet on a flight bound from New York to L.A. They tacitly understand they are soul mates, and she invites him to dinner, but Peter soon discovers that he has lost the number Holly wrote on a page torn from Mann's The Magic Mountain. With Peter's financial career and New York society as a mundane backdrop, years pass and Holly ends up married to Jonathan, a successful author and womanizer-and, conveniently, Peter's best friend. Still aching for his one-time seatmate, Peter marries Charlotte, a dull Francophile, because it "made sense." Charlotte, of course, is also in love with someone else-a former flame, Maximilien-Francois-Marie-Isidore. At Peter and Charlotte's wedding, Jonathan is struck by lightning, precipitating an endless series of events that changes the lives of family, friends and lovers alike-including Peter's boss and Charlotte's ex-stepmother. Former Timeeditor Collins, 48, writes as if fully aware that anyone who saw any one of a thousand other romantic comedies will find the plot familiar: he plays romantic comedy clichés with an expert coolness. Anyone for whom chick lit is a guilty pleasure will find the tone here multiple notches above the usual fare. (Jan.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Library Journal

Peter Russell, an up-and-coming financial trader, is a romantic at heart. As he boards a transcontinental flight to Los Angeles, he is eager to see who will sit next to him, fully expecting-if it's a female-to find his true love. When the captivating Holly takes the seat, Peter is convinced he was right. Imagine his dismay after parting when he loses her phone number and realizes that he doesn't know her last name. So begins this tale of star-crossed lovers and their circle of family and friends. Peter and Holly will each travel a perilous path over the years to come. Treacherous office politics, adulterous liaisons, and a host of fascinating characters round out the story. Despite the contemporary setting, Collins's fiction debut has all the traits of a 19th-century romance-an omniscient and sometimes playful narrator, elegant prose that meanders through the lush terrain of disparate lives, an occasionally arch but always dulcet tone, frequent flashbacks, characters whose minds are plumbed (the females are especially well sounded), sophisticated dialog, and a much-delayed but delightful resolution. Jane Austen fans will feel right at home. Recommended for public libraries.
—Ron Terpening

Kirkus Reviews
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, andit'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.

Product Details

Little, Brown and Company
Publication date:
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.20(d)

Meet the Author

James Collins writes for The New Yorker and has been an editor at both Time and Spy Magazine. A former Little, Brown editorial assistant, he is 48 years old and lives in Virginia with his family. This is his first novel.

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Beginner's Greek 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 29 reviews.
j_pip More than 1 year ago
James Collins is full of himself. Totally and utterly. Dick Montague HAS to be modeled after the author. Keep Webster's close while reading because Collins' verbosity will leave a Harvard grad lost and confused. It's not the fact that his diction is SO high-brow, but he chooses less common words which make reading like driving downtown at rush hour. Stop. Go. Stop. Go. Also problematic is the underlying misanthropic tone. Does anyone like anyone in this book? If they do, they're more wishy-washy than senator/ex-presidential hopeful John Kerry. And the timeline of the book is so erratic. In the "Reading Group Guide" Collins reveals that he doesn't share his work with anyone until it is completed and ready to publish. Well, in future novels he should have someone read over the manuscript or at least provide some sort of road map so readers can make it through the book. This book was not the light, happy summer read i had hoped. With every turn of the page, I felt as if I was reading a combination of Ezra Pound's elitistism, James Joyce's stream of consciousness and e.e. cumming's unconventional orthography. The book tried too hard to be something it wasn't. James Collins... come down from your high horse. You should realize that you're not God's gift to American literature.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book really is a testament to the old saying: "Never judge a book by its cover." That's probably the only use it serves. Other than that, what we got here is a crusty, stilted, cliche rag on a flight to nowhere...or maybe to the .50 cent bin. I found the characters to be flat, the story to be a cliche boy-meets-girl, and the worst part? The writing is so bad and so forced, you will feel like taking a smoke break just to get away. Seriously. At other times, the word use is so pompous and pseudo-intellectual, you'll just doze off to sleep in lala land. If you want to save yourself some time, don't read this book. I can't believe it was authored by a major editor. His writing is in dire need of an overhaul. Big words, lame characters and a schmaltzy "trying to find the one" plot can't serve any good to anyone. As a professor once told me, you find good writing as you would looking out a window. You are looking out onto a story through the window, and having simple, profound language provides a clean glass to see the story through. This book, on the other hand, is a pretty dirty window, and obstructs (and distracts?) our view.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very sweet story with a superb writing style. Definite recommend !
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Laugh out loud funny and tragic from beginning to end
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Don't bother wasting your time
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Guest More than 1 year ago
I thoroughly enjoyed this book! I wanted only the best for Peter and Holly and couldn't wait to hear how their journey would end.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Beginner's Greek is a wonderful, sad, sweet, and funny story, which for a pleasant change is written from a man's point of view. I would disagree with an earlier reader review that classifies this as 'chic lit.' Yes, Peter is a romantic, but we get to see him warts and all. We get to know him inside and out--his feelings of self-doubt and also those moments when he can be swaggering and overconfident, and a bit arrogant or hot-tempered. He meets Holly, the woman of his dreams, when seated by chance beside her on a flight from New York to Los Angeles. Afterwards, Holly gives Peter her number, which he unfortunately loses and regrets terribly. Fast forward a few years and he meets up with her once again, but now she is the girlfriend of his best friend, and he is too much of a gentleman to selfishly intervene. Thus begins a comedy of errors, mis-steps and misccommunications and we get such a good look into Peter's head and the clash of conflicts he has with love, friendship, work, and life in general. This was a wonderful debut novel and an author worth watching.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this book - easy to read, fast and interesting!
GailCooke More than 1 year ago
Okay, so we've probably read it before, seen it before, and heard it before, but we never tire of stories of romance. All the world loves a lover and most of us love romantic stories, especially this one delivered with a twist via the expert pen of James Collins. Another expert delivery is the narrative voice of actor/writer/director Jerry O'Connell. His trained voice beautifully inhabits the persona of Peter Russell. O'Connell aces the scene, whether Peter is humiliated at a business presentation, as in 'He knew he was putrefying before everyone's eyes.' or being lacerated by his arch enemy Thropp who takes boundless delight in ragging him. O'Connell is equally at home voicing Peter as he contemplates meeting the one person in the world meant for him. or the other characters involved in this romantic merry-go-round. The maxim true love never runs smooth takes on added meaning in this often humorous, always engaging debut novel. Peter does, indeed, meet his heart's desire on a flight from New York to Los Angles. Holly is everything he ever dreamed of finding, and she is reading his favorite book, The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann. She gives him her phone number, which is lost. It seems that with the disappearance of the number Holly is also lost to him, but not quite despite the fact that he's engaged to marry Charlotte, a woman he does not love. At this point, Peter has given up on love. It's not that he isn't quite capable of feeling a deep, passionate love, it was just that 'at this very moment he was deeply, passionately, heartbreakingly, searingly in love with someone. That person just didn't happen to be Charlotte.' How in the world could any of this be sorted out? Displaying first rate authorial skills whether writing about bedrooms or boardrooms, James Collins has delivered a delightful story regarding love today and Jerry O'Connell brings it to added life. Enjoy! - Gail Cooke
harstan More than 1 year ago
Holly and Peter meet on a flight from New York to Los Angeles and are immediately attracted to one another. At some inner level, they each know they met their life mate. Holly writes her phone number on a page from The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann and gives it him. That night he goes to get the page, but somehow he lost it he franticly searches but fails to find the key to his happiness. As he goes through the phases of grief, a sad Holly concludes her Peter did not feel the same way as she does. A few years later she marries Peter¿s best friend Jonathan while he and Charlotte agree to wed in a marriage of convenient losers as she also loves someone else. At the wedding ceremony of Peter and Charlotte lightning strikes Jonathan, which leads to a comedy of relationship errors as the newlyweds, Holly and others try to get their just rewards. --- This is an amusing chick lit romance in which one thing leads to another as if James Collins knocked down the first domino which than took several subplot paths knocking down other dominos. Peter and Holly are terrific as they try to move on from that fateful plane trip, but neither fully can because they know who the other is deep inside their heart. Readers will wonder whether they will get together and what about Charlotte in this fun Greek romantic ¿tragedy¿. --- Harriet Klausner
MMiller0912 More than 1 year ago
So much better than a typical romance novel! Just when you think you have it all figured out, there is another plot twist. Very much worth the extra length. I finished this with a smile on my face and a desire to see it made into a movie!