James Collins: Beginner's Greek

<p><em>Tom Tivnan writes:</em><br />
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<p><img width="115" vspace="10" hspace="10" height="115" align="left" alt="Beginner&rsquo;s Greek" src="/documents/UserContributed/image/21xp+dbGjuL__AA115_.jpg" /><em>Beginner&rsquo;s Greek</em> (Fourth Estate, February 2008), a debut novel by James Collins, a former <em>Time</em> magazine editor, opens with Peter and Holly meeting on a plane to Los Angeles. On the flight, they fall deeply in love. As they disembark, Holly gives Peter her phone number but he loses it and they don&rsquo;t meet up again. Fast forward a few years and, in a barely credible coincidence, Holly has married Peter&rsquo;s best friend, successful writer Jonathan. Peter, meanwhile, is getting hitched to workaholic Charlotte. But Holly and Peter still carry a torch for each other. Will these star-crossed lovers eventually get together? Anyone with half a brain cell or who has seen a Richard Curtis film already knows the answer.<br />
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Despite being about love, this is a deeply cynical novel, meant to push buttons rather than reach any sort of emotional depth. Which would be forgivable if the book was fun or funny. But Collins&rsquo; prose is hackneyed, and flat, while his attempts at humour are cringingly bad. But the main problem is Peter and Holly. Both are so perfect, so obviously perfect for each other and so deadly dull. Peter in particular seems as if assembled after a focus group discussion of<br />
dewy eyed female singletons about their perfect man. He is handsome, &quot;strongly built,&quot; sensitive enough to have read Magic Mountain, but is still coining a decent salary at his finance job. Most of all, he is &quot;one of those deeply romantic men who still believe in fate.&quot; Oh, yeah. One of those guys. A dime a dozen.&nbsp; <br />
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In February, there will be a lot of chick-lit romantic comedies hoping to sweep readers off their feet. This unfocused, unfunny mess won&rsquo;t be the one.&nbsp;</p>