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This Beautiful Life

3.04 of 5 stars 3.04  ·  rating details  ·  5,138 ratings  ·  933 reviews
When the Bergamots move from a comfortable upstate college town to New York City, they’re not quite sure how they’ll adapt—or what to make of the strange new world of well-to-do Manhattan. Soon, though, Richard is consumed by his executive role at a large New York university, and Liz, who has traded in her academic career to oversee the lives of their children, is hectical ...more
Hardcover, 222 pages
Published August 2nd 2011 by Harper (first published August 1st 2011)
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Somebody pour me a drink. I feel like I've survived something here.

First off, let me say that I listened to this on CD going to-and-from work, and the fact that the reader was overwhelmingly droll and snooty certainly tainted my impression of the book. It was very challenging to tolerate her smug and judgmental tone.

The plot centers on an upwardly-mobile New York family of four: Richard, a highly-sought university administrator; his wife, Liz, an initially sensible stay-at-home mom who has set
I didn't care for this book. I truly despised the first section, from Lizzie's perspective, and only started to like the book a little bit when it was being told from Jake's perspective. I felt like the parents were each quite two-dimensional, and I didn't believe their characters. I was a bit annoyed with the present tense/past tense difference between narrators. It was jarring. I was also disappointed in the writer for her colloquial cop-outs with phrases like, "where they'd lived pretty fucki ...more
Will Byrnes
Living what appears to be an exceptional reality, with financial and career success, access to the good things in life, and a world of hope for the future, the Bergamot family discovers that the royal flush they had been dealt can easily be transformed into, or shown to be, a house of cards.

When 15-year old Jake Bergamot passes on a chance to hook up with an eighth-grader at a party, telling her she is just too young, she tries to show him she is very definitely not too young by sending him an e
Randi Reisfeld
The cover of the NY Times Book Review? Really? Really? Okay, this'll teach me to run out and buy a book based on that kind of coverage. The review was longer than the book. Tho t'aint the length I quibble with, more the "huh? Nothing much happened" factor that irks me. The premise was intriguing and oh-so timely: upper east side (or was it west?) NYC, a family recently transplanted from Ithaca, upstate NY. Teenage boy receives a sex-video from a younger girl with a serious crush on him. Entire f ...more
This book lost me from hello, and whilst at times it made an effort to win me back I never really bought it.
The premise is good one, its what caught my attention, and I was excited to receive an uncorrected proof from Waterstones. Examining the worst challenges a family can face from the relative safety of a book can make for very thought provoking reading. But this is no "We Need to Talk About Kevin."
I felt the main barrier to me connecting with this book was the characters, and the lives they
This book wasn't sure exactly what story it wanted to tell. The blurb on the cover says the book is about what happens to a family when the teenage son gets caught up in an sex email scandel. But this is done in a very basic way and I didn't ever really feel for anyone in this book. The characters seem to be standing and stating who they are and how they feel, without the reader ever really feeling that or seeing it. This could have been such a great book, but I felt the author just didn't know ...more
Oct 06, 2011 Jodie rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2011
Okay so I finished this book a couple of days ago and am still thinking about it. Mainly I think of my niece who is nearly Daisy's age and shudder to think that she could be naive enough to record a very explicit video of herself and forward it to an older boy in the hopes of impressing him. God how awful, and mainly because I actually think she might do it. But what is more disturbing is I get that hideous apprehension because I see her with her friends, trying so hard to be grown up, she idoli ...more
I just finished this book and absolutely despised it. I thought the subject matter was OK, if a bit overdone, but what really annoyed me is Helen Schulman's writing. It's simply not good. I hated every stock character, especially Lizzie and Richard, and I had a hard time believing a kindergartener (no matter how precocious) would say "it's awfully ...."

And that's just one completely unbelievable thing characters say in this book. Even tiny things annoyed me, like having a food server at a lobst
Once I had the online world betray me. Well, it wasn't the online world, it was what someone else did with it. Wait. Make that twice. I had my identity stolen through a phishing scam. That was painful. But more personal and ruthless was the former student who cut and pasted and edited an email I sent to her and forwarded it to my boss at the university. I had invited her to a private workshop, but from how it appeared to my boss, I was poaching students. She did this because I was too ill from a ...more
Bob Mustin
I have good news, and I have bad news. But first a (very little) bit about the story.

A young girl appears naked on the Internet. A boy notices, and in some state of discombobulation, he passes the link on to a friend. Of course the girl goes locally viral, and the first boy gets in trouble. He eventually gets out of trouble due to one of his parents, who has a friend who has a friend. This whole mess happens amid a Chardonnay–and-Hummer-in-the-‘burbs family who curse a lot, drink too much, valu
Malena Watrous
I liked the way that the author gently satirized the milieu of this novel--the New York parents and their private school kids. I laughed with recognition at the absurdities of their lives, but I thought she did a nice job of skewering it all rather lovingly. Two adopted Chinese girls in the same kindergarten class, both named Coco, both of whose parents wanted to make sure they were the only one with that name... The slumber party at the Plaza, where a woman sees the way the establishment has go ...more
Helen Schulman is a wonderful writer, with a powerful sense of place and ear for how people talk. Her book, Day at the Beach, is one of the best out dealing with 9/11 (albeit obliquely). And in This Beautiful Life she creates an eerie sense of deja vu in her depiction of a fragilely happy Manhattan family, privileged with success, love, money, "self-fulfillment"-all of which turns out to be a delicately put together life, shattered at any serious encounter with life, in this case, the 15-year-ol ...more
I was able to relate to the characters in Helen Schulman's shattering novel, This Beautiful Life. Liz and Richard Bergamot lived in upstate New York, Ithaca, about 30 minutes from where I lived for 45 years. Richard got a fabulous offer for a job in Manhattan, doing work that he found meaningful and rewarding. The family moved to Manhattan.

Fours years ago, my husband also received a job offer, doing something meaningful and rewarding, and off we went. Unlike Liz and Richard, our children were gr
Sue Seligman
This book was a disappointment to me. The premise of the novel is very topical; a young girl sends a sexual video of herself to a boy whom she likes, and this boy thoughtlessly sends it to one friend, and soon it is sent to people near and far. The main characters are the boy, his parents and younger sister; they have recently relocated to Manhattan because the dad has obtained a high powered job in a local university. The portrayal of the affluent life of the families who are part of the social ...more
Sophie Dusting

When the Bergamots move to the city, they're unsure how well they'll adapt. Soon though, Richard is consumed by his new job and Liz, who has given up her career, is hectically playing mother to six-year-old Coco and fifteen-year-old Jake. But the day Jake unthinkingly forwards a sexually explicit email attachment sent to him by a young girl is the last day of the Bergamots' comfortable middle-class existence. Within hours, the video clip is not only all over Jake's school, but all ove
The reviewer from The Washington Post called the events in this book "a modern day viral nightmare", with the contagion being the internet, no lethal germ. I couldn't agree more. A simple, thoughtless mistake by a shocked 15 year old boy--sharing a mind-blowing,sexually explicit video sent to him by a younger girl from school who had a crush on him with his best friend--started a storm that altered countless lives. The stacked cards on the cover of the book are apt--that one click on "forward" b ...more
Less skilled writers sometimes feel compelled to use sensational violence or wartime conflicts in the hopes that this will make them serious writers. But here Helen Schulman demonstates that an extremely talented author can make simple things, like dropping off your daughter to school, or your son forwarding an inappropriate e-mail, into fascinating, engrossing fiction. I expecially liked how the fallout from that inappropriate e-mail exposed the structure of how their family was supposed to wor ...more
Jul 25, 2011 Nancy added it
My take: I thought this would be like Therese Fowler's which I found voyeuristically captivating. Because, as I mentioned in my review, I know a boy who had a nearly identical experience. I have also been up close and personal as a family member had a similar experience. So I feel empathetic for the boy who does something stupid and seemingly harmless only to find himself handcuffed and charged with a serious sex crime and facing years of prison time.

A beautifully descriptive writer - the details of her settings and characters feelings made the story more immediate and real to me. An upwardly mobile family is adjusting to life in Manhattan where Richard is pursuing his new executive planning position with a New York university when their 15 year-old son, Jake, receives a raunchy video email from a 13 year-old admirer that he unthinkly forwards to a friend. Within a day the video has gone viral, widely circulated across the internet and Jake ...more
Helen Schulman has written a well-crafted and articulate novel, full of trenchant observations about the competitiveness of everyday Manhattan life and the myriad small and big ways that people try to insulate themselves from the truth of life or relationships.

Schulman's novel is populated by characters who make compromises (whether it's the highly educated career woman who becomes a stay-at-home mother, the idealistic striver who becomes a selfish banker, the parents who inundate their children
Start with a "perfect" upper middle-class academic family, add in a single event that soon wreaks havoc, and then watch the family disintegrate. That's the formula for Helen Schulman's novel This Beautiful Life. It is testimony to Schulman's capable storytelling that she manages to sustain her narrative without seeming overly formulaic. The author's style is a bit staccato at times, but what it lacks in lushness is made up for by her intelligent prose. And since the Bergamots family's downhill s ...more
I received this book as a First Read from Goodreads.

I couldn't wait to be finished with this book. Start to finish, I was distracted by the writing itself. Though it was not poorly-constructed, many of her most interesting phrases and sentences read as if she had come up with them before writing the book and then looked eagerly for places where she could include them.

The characters were not terribly relatable. Though their lives are very different from my own, that should not have been enough t
Meh. This story lacks something. The characters, especially the parents, Richard and Elizabeth (Liz) Bergamot are too good to be true. Their kids, 15-year-old Jake and 6-year-old Coco (a Chinese adoptee), are, for the most part, pretty good kids. One day, Jake unthinkingly forwards a sex video emailed to him by a 13-year-old girl who has a crush on him, and that’s when the trouble starts. Will the Bergamot family and their “beautiful life” be torn apart by one little click of a mouse button? Liz ...more
Renita D'Silva
This book is scary, especially if you are a parent of a teenager today. An unflinching portrait of modern society with all its many faults, a terrifying picture of what happens when you hit send on an email without thinking.
Mike Lindgren
Much-hyped yarn about Internet sex scandal at tony UES prep school and its devastating consequences for a formerly picture-book family turns out to be riddled with stereotypes and lazy writing. Schulman was canny enough to pick an eminently book club-ready premise for her novel, but is unable to transcend her setting, which has been more crisply skewered elsewhere, or her characters, who are so bland and self-absorbed that they practically evaporate. Hard for me to believe I'm reading the same b ...more
A more apt title would have been 'Single Keystroke Apocalypse'. A very of the moment novel about an act of teenage bravado and naivete going viral and taking down everyone in its wake.

I'm reminded of the quote by Mitch Radcliffe: A computer lets you make more mistakes faster than any invention in human history, with the possible exceptions of handguns and tequila.

I need to figure out an application that would put outgoing emails in a holding tank for at least 30 minutes so there would be time to
I'll admit my bias here and note that I can be a bit skeptical of the "ripped from the headlines" style of plot. I will glance at such a book with a bit of curiosity but tend to live my headline ripping to Law & Order types (though I really only like the Lenny-era reruns). I was curious though and hopeful when I started this book, provided to me by Harper in exchange for an unbiased review.

The Bergamot family is the picture of an upper-middle class family with a working dad, an educated mom
Chris Witkowski
This is a terrific read, an intense, tightly written story about a young boy, Jake, who sets off a crisis for himself and his family when he innocently forwards a sexually explicit video he has received, unsolicited, from a 13 year old girl he met the previous night at an unchaperoned NYC party. The consequences of this naive, but totally understandable action, are devastating. Life as they know it is over for the Bergamots. The depiction of young Jake's adolescent angst and his feelings of self ...more
Catherine Woodman
This is a there go I but for the grace of God kind of story. This was on the 100 notable books of 2011 list, and I am grateful for that, because otherwise I would have missed this book, and that would have been a shame. I do not always agree that those books are the best of the year, but they are usually very good at the least, and since I am not completely steeped in the book world, I would mis many of them.

Liz and Richard Bergamot are upper middle class everyday parents. He is the reason they
Picked up this book from the library about 10 minutes before I discovered a similar "scandal" was unfolding at our High School! How timely and topical!

The author brings the reader into the family of a teenage boy who receives, unsolicited, a sexting video from a grade 8 girl. What happens next, and how it impacts the boy, his parents, and their lives unfolds quickly, and rather unevenly.

I found the author spent too much time with the mother/adopted daughter and the husband and his business mis
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