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A Day at the Beach Hardcover – June 1, 2007

3.5 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Schulman (P.S.; The Revisionist) doesn't disappoint with this narrative spanning 24 terrible hours in the life of the Falktopf family on a certain September day. Husband and wife Gerhard and Suzannah, somewhat mismatched, struggle to come to terms with each other, the turns their lives have begun to take and their artsy downtown Manhattan existence. Suzannah is a 36-year-old former dancer turned stay-at-home mother of autistic son Nikolai, while choreographer Gerhard is autodidactic, worldly, anal retentive and unaffectionate, and has just been notified by his dance company's board that he is to be replaced by someone "committed to the spirit of the early Gerhard Falktopf" and that the company is trying to usurp his works, including his crowning achievement, yet-to-be-premiered A Day at the Beach. The Falktopfs watch (separately: Suzannah from their apartment, Gerhard from a nearby bank) in horror as the towers burn and collapse before fleeing to East Hampton. There, Gerhard and Suzannah navigate their troubled marriage and a few moral predicaments brought on by chance meetings with long-lost friends. Schulman's novel succeeds as a haunting, poignant remembrance. (June)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From The New Yorker

On September 11, 2001, the fifty-five-year-old German choreographer Gerhard Falktopf is doing the same thing he’s been doing for weeks—pacing about his Village loft and ranting about the loss of his dance company—while his former muse, Suzannah, frets about their son Nikolai’s first day at school. But when Nikolai looks out the window and observes that "the birdies are on fire," Gerhard shakes off his sense of paralysis, plunders his bank account, and loads assorted dependents into the company’s Mercedes S.U.V., bound for the Hamptons. As it turns out, his family would have been safer if they’d stayed home. Schulman, in her fourth novel, gets both her cultural moment and the psychological particulars of a disintegrating marriage exactly right, and her writing is distractingly, almost brazenly beautiful. The result slyly demonstrates both the inadequacy of art and its insolent resilience in disaster’s aftermath.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; First Edition edition (June 1, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0618746544
  • ISBN-13: 978-0618746545
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.5 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,480,215 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Paul Byrne on September 28, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Schulman's novel portrays the relationship between a choreographer and his wife and how September 11 impacts on their lives and the life of their child. Living near the World Trade Center, our main protagonits are forced to flee the city after the planes fly into the buildings. It is a brilliantly written novel and in its short length manages to convey a whole world of grief and horror in writing that is muscular, compelling and compassionate. One of the main strengths of this book is the different perspectives of these horrific events through the main characters' eyes, Gerhard and Suzannah. As readers we vacillate between them, sometimes identifying with Gerhard and frustrated with his ex-dancer wife Suzannah. Then there are other times when we are furious with Gerhard's teutonic arrogance, understanding full well Suzannah's impatience with him. Another strength of Schulman's writing is the way she holds back divulging why certain characters behave the way they do till much later. In doing this, Schulman forces us to reassess our judgements of these people and we as readers are all the better for this. It is a superb book. I urge you to read it.
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Format: Hardcover
I came to A DAY AT THE BEACH with all sorts of preconceptions of what a `9/11 Book' should or could be, and Helen Schulmen shattered all of them. From the very beginning, the relationship between Suzanna (an ex-dancer) and Gerhard (her choreographer) is electric. Although the larger tragedy of 9/11 is present, it takes the backseat to the rich, fully realized lives of the characters. I would highly recommend this book for book groups, as it opens the door to discussions about the devastating effects of historical tragedies in the lives of individuals.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The characters in this book are well developed. The husband is much more interesting that the wife. She is whiny and seems to have no interests of her own, nor to realize that her husband cheats on her constantly. The section about the actual moments when the Twin Towers are hit are compelling and scary. I felt shaken again reading them.

However, although much of the writing is excellent, much also is sloppy with dangling participles and other syntactical errors. You'd think in such a short book the author could do better.

The end of the book is totally disappointing.
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Format: Hardcover
I savored this book as I read it, and knew even before I reached the end that I'd start over as soon as I finished. Which is what I did. Beautifully written and engaging.
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I expected more from this book, given the subject matter and hysteria of that day. All the characters were superficial and self-involved, and one-dimensional. I didn't care about any of them, or what their elitist lives "suffered" because of the horrible tragedy happening in their upscale neighborhood. The husband was more concerned with how is car was parked than the events enveloping his city/neighborhood. The nanny was a cut-out, useless to care for a child with special needs. They all escaped to second homes in the Hamptons and life went on with annoyance at inconveniences. All in all an awful waste of time.
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Format: Hardcover
Other reviewers rated this so highly, and it is so short that I decided to invest the time. Alas, a waste. This is essentially a short story padded out to be a novella. The padding is the two main characters internal boring dialogue about their lives and shaky marrage. Very little happens. Though it is a 911 story, the plot has little to do with the events of that day. I would say though that the pages depicting the chaos and terror of that day are quite compelling-the best part of the book. The husband is arrogant and self-absorbed. the wife is equally self-aborbed and narcistic. Even tho it's short, I wouldn't recommend spending 200+ pages with these annoying characters.
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