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This Beautiful Life: A Novel Paperback – February 7, 2012
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“Riveting. . . . As much as this book fiercely inhabits our shared online reality, it operates most powerfully on a deeper level, posing an enduring question about American values.” (Maria Russo, New York Times Book Review)
“This Beautiful Life is as much a bracing novel as a timely cautionary tale…. Schulman has managed to capture this bizarre of-the-moment tragedy in a novel that remains deeply humane and sensitive…. This Beautiful Life is a powerful story of a good family in crisis.” (Mary McGarry Morris, Washington Post)
“Schulman’s topical, unsettling new novel [is] set in Manhattan’s world of private-school privilege but chillingly relatable for parents anywhere…. Raising tough questions about child rearing, morality and the way the Internet both frees and imprisons, Schulman’s story resonates.” (People (3 ½ out of 4 stars))
“A rich, engrossing, and surprisingly nuanced novel exploring timeless questions of guilt and responsiblity.” (O, The Oprah Magazine)
“This Beautiful Life isn’t just an intimate look at family breaking down under intense pressure; it’s also a sharp and unsparing indictment of a culture in search of scapegoats. In this timely and provocative novel, Helen Schulman maps out the contours of a contemporary American nightmare.” (Tom Perrotta, author of The Leftovers and Little Children)
“A gripping, potent, and blisteringly well-written story of family, dilemma, and consequence. While the setting is thoroughly modern, the drama feels as ancient and inevitable as a Greek myth. I read this book with white-knuckled urgency, and finished it in tears. Helen Schulman is an absolutely brilliant novelist.” (Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Committed and Eat, Pray, Love)
“In the hands of a lesser writer, this might have been simply a book about a scandal; Helen Schulman, though, has a long enough view, and a large enough heart, to have found in that scandal’s outlines a mournful and affecting portrait of our brave new social world.” (Jonathan Dee, Author of The Privileges)
“Helen Schulman’s trenchant social observations and precise, lucid writing are brought to bear on the timely story of a crisis in the life of the Bergamot family…. Schulman takes on a controversial topic with depth, evenhandedness, and warmth. Spare and focused, This Beautiful Life packs a wallop.” (Kate Christensen, author of The Epicure's Lament and The Great Man)
“In another writer’s hands, it might come out as a cautionary tale, but Schulman is careful not to paint anyone as villain or victim.” (Hannah Gerson, New York Observer)
“A harrowing and moving account of just how much twenty-first-century technology has magnified the scope of the kind of imbecilities in which teenagers excel. It’s poignant about the fragility of even those homes that are seemingly invulnerably insulated by privilege and caring and vigilant parents.” (Jim Shepard, author of Like You'd Understand, Anyway)
From the Back Cover
When fifteen-year-old Jake Bergamot receives—and then forwards to a friend—a sexually explicit video that an eighth-grade admirer sent to him, the video goes viral within hours. The scandal that ensues threatens to shatter his family’s sense of security and identity—and, ultimately, their happiness. This Beautiful Life is a devastating, clear-eyed portrait of modern life that will have readers debating their assumptions about family, morality, and the choices we make in the name of love.
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The father, Richard, appears to be a very good father, one who supports his family finacially, while Liz, his wife, does the tasks expected of her: pays the bills, keeps the apartment going, deals with school issues...
Then Jake attends a party, an unsupervised one. And there he meets 11-year-old Daisy. And something happens. No, he does not have sex with her. Something else. And it relates to that ubiquitiousness of the Internet.
And the family falls badly.
The author has a great talent for point of view writing. The reader sees the points of view of the two adults and the son.
But the novel gets to be very tedious. And I don't know how Helen Schulman might have rewritten this to take out that tediousness. But I found myself relegating this to my 30 minutes of cardio time at the gym because otherwise I wouldn't have spent more than fifteen minutes at one sitting with the novel. And I am a person who can sit for hours and hours with "a good book."
So for point of view and plot and character development, this is a five-star novel.
But it is a boring one to read. Or at least for me. One-star. Hence the three-stars.
Overall the book doesn't work because the writer has no respect for her characters and seems to have put little care into actually writing the story. On a minor note, she doesn't get the name of the Cuban restaurant in Harlem correctly, and her descriptions of Chelsea are terribly outdated.