Lots of terrible advice in this thread. A single-action .45 is clearly NOT a good first handgun, and there are many experts that would even say that they are not great choices for a home defense gun either. FYI - I love 1911's too.
Let's take what the OP's requirements and situation is described in his post.
New handgun owner - Would probably say that 38/9mm is about the ideal caliber for most new shooters.
Home defense gun - Gun must be ultra reliable, have provisions for weapon-mounted light or night sights.
Simple - Ideally a double action or striker fired weapon.
Compact - No full size or subcompact. I would imagine a 3-4" revolver or a G19 sized semi would be about right here.
Luckily, there are many handguns that fit the above criteria.
I would first look at the following:
S&W model 66 Combat Magnum, model 986, M&P M2.0 9mm
Ruger GP100 3"
Springfield XD 4" 9mm
Walther PPQ 4" 9mm, CCP
Sig Sauer - P229, P320 both in 9mm
H&K - VP9
There may be a few others, but these are the ones that I would feel most comfortable with.
Last year we were handgun hunting for Whitetails. One of the party hit a running doe at 45 paces in the front shoulder with a .357 with a Federal 185 grain JHP, and it went down like it was hit with a .270. It did need to be dispatched with a shot to the head, but that .357 load did the trick.