Love Begins in Winter by Simon Van Booy

Oh, Simon Van Booy.  Everyone truly seems to love him and his fiction. I remember when Love Begins in Winter was being reviewed left and right a year or so ago and thinking it would be something I’d love. So when I was offered the chance to review it, I jumped at it. Now that I’ve finished reading it, I would call this a hit or miss collection of five stories, with two that I loved, two that were okay and one that I didn’t understand at all.

When Simon Van Booy is on, he’s excellent. He is a good writer and he has some lines that really make your heart stop with just how beautiful they are. That was true of all of his stories, they all had beautiful lines in them, but sometimes the rest of the story just didn’t live up to those moments.

It’s difficult to explain sometimes why something isn’t quite right with a story. Part of it is that I just didn’t feel that the narrative was always genuine, but I have a much harder time pinpointing what exactly makes a narrative less genuine. In the case of the stories “Love Begins in Winter” and “Tiger, Tiger” it seemed like the structure was more important than the actual story.

But what about what I do love? I love the way Van Booy moves effortlessly back and forth between time. Even in the stories I didn’t like as much, the way the narrative subtly explained the histories of the characters through shifts in the time was so well done. I love lines like “Language is like looking at a map of somewhere. Love is living there and surviving on the land” (49) and “All siblings have a secret life from their parents. Parents love their children, but children need each other to negotiate the strange forest they find themselves in” (28). And I love the story “The Coming and Going of Strangers,” it’s the most beautiful story in this collection.

In the end, I think Love Begins in Winter is like most story collections. Most readers, in my experience, don’t love every story. But if the stories you do love make you want to read more, then the collection has done its job. I think Simon Van Booy is an author I will revisit in the future.

Thanks to TLC Book Tours for sending me this book to review. You can find out more about the tour, including past and future tour stops, here.

6 thoughts on “Love Begins in Winter by Simon Van Booy

  1. Wow, that’s certainly a wide range of feelings about such a small group of stories! I’m glad that there were at least a few that you really liked. Thanks for being on the tour.

  2. I think this is why I so often steer clear of short story collections, because of the inconsistencies that can plague them. You always want to good stories to stretch out longer, but the mediocre stories can overshadow the ones that are fantastic. It makes me think about cooking competition shows where the contestants decide to make a duo of lamb or something… inevitably this backfires because on of their dishes is vastly superior to the other and the judges wind up being disappointed that the whole thing wasn’t great and the take-away message is that they should have just done a single dish instead. I will be reading my first Van Booy collection very soon for this tour so I’m eager to see how I respond to him.

  3. I recall being a bit nervous abt whether I would like SVB when I attempted this collection but ended up so impressed – or I drank the koolaid. My bookclub has selected Everything Beautiful Begins After and I am nervous all over again.
    SVB is talented and creates such atmospheric work! truly an author I put in the artist category.

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