Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Love Begins in Winter: Stories by Simon Van Booy

I admit I picked up Love Begins in Winter: Stories by Simon Van Booy at the wrong time. What I mean is I picked it up when I was in bed, near sleep, thinking I'd just get a taste of the collection, read one story and fall peacefully asleep. From the very first sentence Van Booy had me hooked, and it didn't matter that what I thought were short stories were in fact near fifty pages in length, I made it through 2 of the 5 before finally being forced to sleep by heavy eyelids despite the fact that I didn't want to put down the book. I felt this way not because Love Begins in Winter is any kind of adventure thriller novel, the only adventure Van Booy delves into are those of the ordinary life and love.

Love Begins in Winter is a collection about meeting strangers, about beginnings, about fresh snow and new love. The title story appears first in the book and centres around an aging cellist who feels alone in the world since the death of his childhood companion. When he meets a woman who also suffered a great loss at a young age, the possibility of new life forms and grows between them. "Love Begins In Winter" was filled with beautiful phrases, word by word Van Booy made me fall in love, phrases such as "Grief is a country where it rains and rains but nothing grows. The dead live somewhere else- wearing the clothes we remember them in." and "Language is like looking at a map of somewhere. Love is living there and surviving on the land."

The second story in the collection was "Tiger Tiger", focuses on a doctor and her boyfriend, a man with parents whose marriage is on unsteady ground. He gives her a book written by their family doctor, and years later she picks it up only to realize the insight it has into her own life and the unexpected nature of love. Some of the excerpts from this book were quite intriguing, for example "Adult fears are idealized to the point where they become too big to fit through the hole they originally came through." Overall, it was probably my least favourite story in the collection though, as I found myself more emotionally distant from it than the other stories.

In the third story, "The Missing Statues", the love comes from a stranger and its impact radiates for years to come as the kindness of a gondolier is never forgotten by the man a young boy grows to be. In "The Coming and Going of Strangers", a boy falls in love with a girl he has never spoken to, a love that has no reason and yet is stronger than anything he has ever felt. The ending of the story was definitely a surprise, but the more I thought about it the more I felt it was perfect.

Love Begins in Winter ends with the story "The City of Windy Trees" in which a man travels to a new country to meet the daughter he never knew, the result of a one-night stand many years ago and the dream he never acknowledged. It is a touching story about redemption and what it feels like to move from a life alone to a life of love. The characters in Van Booy's collection are loners until they find love, although it doesn't always appear in obvious ways.

Ultimately, Love Begins in Winter was a beautiful and powerful collection from an author I will be certain to follow in the future. I already have his first collection of stories and his novel to read and I am excited to delve into more of his poetic writing. Although the title story was certainly my favourite, the others in the collection didn't disappoint my initial expectation. I may have read Love Begins in Winter in summer but it is the beginning of what I am sure will be a long lasting love affair with Simon Van Booy's beautiful prose.

Release Date: May 1st, 2009
Pages: 226
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This review was a part of TLC Book Tours. Click here to read what other tour hosts thought. For the purpose of this review I was provided with a copy of the book which did not require a positive review. The opinions expressed in this post are completely my own.

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