Beginner's Greek - James Collins

Peter knew, of course, that it was pretty pointless and immature to compare yourself to other people. What mattered was whether you believed that you were using your own capabilities to the fullest. He also knew that it was of no importance whatsoever what other people thought of you. As long as you were comfortable with yourself and believed in yourself, then you could just throw out all that nonsense of worrying about your status and "success" and other people's opinions. Peter was a valuable, worthwhile human being in his own right! There was no reason whatsoever for him to feel inferior to anyone else at this table. Except that he was inferior to all of them.

Peter Russell is a romantic. He truly believes that one day he'll be on an airplane, fall madly in love with a beautiful young woman sitting next to him, and they'll get married and live happily ever after. And then, of course, when he does finally meet Holly on a plane and they hit it off spectacularly, he immediately loses her phone number and doesn't see her again for four years. By now, Peter and Holly are both attached to other people, despite the fact that they are both very much in love with each other (but neither knows that the other feels this way). And the people they're attached to--well, they're not ideal, either, but "it will be fine," Peter tells himself.

This is a book that doesn't take itself too seriously, and it's a fun romantic comedy with a couple over-the-top characters and plenty of awkward situations. Nice guy Peter is too noble to tell his fiancee Charlotte that he isn't actually in love with her. She, meanwhile, is actually in love with her old beau, the ridiculous hasn't-got-a-nickname Maximilien-Francois-Marie-Isidore. Throw in various parents, stepparents, an incredibly wealthy boss, and a few lotharios, and you've got sort of a modern-day version of "The Princess Bride" (or maybe a New York version of "Four Weddings and a Funeral"). Just about everyone (except the truly nasty ones) gets a happy ending, which is what you expect but you're not sure how it will work.

Collins is a skilled writer, managing to combine very sweet sentimental passages with the comically absurd. He has a keen sense of the way people act and speak when in love, the way they perceive the world. Throughout the book it seems that he's both mocking and celebrating the idea of true love. There's a lot of promiscuity but not much sex (like a PG-13 movie); you get the sense that he doesn't believe sex equals love, but love definitely involves sex.

I really enjoyed this one, even with my nagging suspicions that large parts of it were quite chauvinistic: but I guess there's a fine line between being a romantic and being a chauvinist. If you're looking for a quick, fun read, this might be the book for you.

Fed to jonathan's brain | April 08, 2008 | Comments (0)


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