By James Collins
(Little, Brown and Company, Hardcover, 9780316021555, 448pp.)
Publication Date: January 2008
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When Peter Russell finally meets the woman of his dreams he falls as madly in love as you can on a flight from New York to LA. Her name is Holly. She's achingly pretty with strawberry-blonde hair, and reads Thomas Mann for pleasure. She gives Peter her phone number on a page of The Magic Mountain, but in his room that night Peter finds the page is inexplicably, impossibly, enragingly...gone.
So begins the immensely entertaining story of Peter and his unrequited love for his best friend's girl; of Charlotte and her less-than-perfect marriage to a man in love with someone else; of Jonathan and his wicked and fateful debauchery; and of Holly, the impetus for it all. Along the way, there's the evil boss, the desirable temptress, miscommunications, misrepresentations, fiendish behavior, letters gone astray, and ultimately, an ending in which every character gets his due.
Both incisive and wonderfully funny, this is a brilliantly understated comedy of manners in which love lost is found again.
"James Collins has written a romantic, funny and insightful page turner about love in modern times, missed opportunities and the wheel of fate (with a blow-out!) that is so engaging and real, you will find it impossible to put down. Peter Russell is an everyman filled with longing, lust and good sense. I promise you will root for him as fate throws him curves aplenty on his path to true love. BEGINNER'S GREEK and Peter Russell are keepers."
-- Adriana Trigiani, bestselling author of Lucia, Lucia and Big Stone Gap
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 forty-eight years old and lives in VIrginia with his family. This is his first novel.
"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." (starred review)
-Library Journal (starred review)
"A witty romantic comedy."
"...a toothsome and literate romantic comedy of the sort not seen since Laurie Colwin..."
-New York Times House & Home
"Part fable, part farce, [an] ultimately charming debut novel"
"A satire of modern love that will charm both sexes equally"
"Mr. Collins has a wicked sense of humor"
"Entertaining...the perfect airplane novel."
-The San Francisco Chronicle
"James Collins has written a romantic, funny and insightful page turner about love in modern times, missed opportunities and the wheel of fate (with a blow-out!) that is so engaging and real, you will find it impossible to put down. Peter Russell is an everyman filled with longing, lust and good sense. I promise you will root for him as fate throws him curves aplenty on his path to true love. Beginner's Greek and Peter Russell are keepers."
-Adriana Trigiani, bestselling author of Lucia, Lucia and Big Stone Gap
"James Collins is on home turf when it comes to the secret world of the American aristocracy. He knows these people uncomfortably well. I enjoyed it enormously."
-Julian Fellowes, author of Snobs
"Beginner's Greek is either an incisive romantic comedy or a feel-good social satire; it hardly matters, it's a huge entertainment. With his big, sloppy heart and astringent soul, James Collins is the new Jane Austen, only taller."
-Larry Doyle, author of I Love You, Beth Cooper
"Such a rare delight: a smart, elegant, madly romantic comedy with characters who seem perfectly, charmingly real as they swerve and stumble from fairy tale to social satire and back again. If you ever wished there were more Jane Austen and Laurie Colwin novels to read, or more Preston Sturges and George Cukor movies to watch, your dream has hereby come true."
-Kurt Andersen, author of Heyday
"In Beginners Greek, James Collins achieves a tone - a farcical fatalism, poised, astringent, generous - that I thought until now was the exclusive property of the finest British comic novelists. How wrong I was, and how right this novel is, building from small domestic observations and cunning dramatic turnaboutstoward a wise and ample vision of human romantic folly."
-Walter Kirn, author of Mission to America and Thumbsucker
"Beginner's Greek is full of humor and a rare, perceptive sweetness. Jim Collins is a skeptic, a realist, and a fervent romantic all in one."
-Cathleen Schine, author of She is Me and The New Yorkers
"The marriage story hasn't been done this well since Jane Austen, and lord knows, a lot of us have tried. It is deftly plotted, sweetly funny and very very smart. Really delicious."
-Beth Gutcheon, author of More than You Know
"Pure Pleasure Plus Wit: The arch and romantic read of any season, James Collins' Beginner's Greek makes you half-believe in miracles. With his triteness detector in high gear and his sights trained on social hypocrisy, Collins spins a chance encounter on an airplane (shy guy meets his dream girl) into a perfectly calibrated comedy of missed opportunities and muddled loves."
"[Collins] makes magic of it all...so much old-school charm that you want to believe, and...so much patient detail that you actually can. A-"