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This Beautiful Life

3.03  ·  Rating details ·  6,040 ratings  ·  1,008 reviews
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 t ...more
Hardcover, 225 pages
Published August 2nd 2011 by Harper (first published August 1st 2011)
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Average rating 3.03  · 
Rating details
 ·  6,040 ratings  ·  1,008 reviews

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Will Byrnes
Apr 15, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Sep 18, 2011 rated it it was ok
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
Oct 25, 2011 rated it did not like it
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
Julie Ehlers
As I recently felt the need to proclaim on Goodreads, I was a big fan of Helen Schulman's novel P.S.—so much so that Schulman joined my exclusive club of Authors I Avoid Out of a Subconscious Fear That Their Later Novels Won't Live Up to Their Earlier Ones. Sure, I bought a copy of her 2011 novel This Beautiful Life, but that doesn't mean I read it—that is, until this month, when I realized that Schulman had a new novel coming out and that I should finally get around to this one.

Alas, I now wish
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
Aug 07, 2011 rated it it was ok
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
Aug 21, 2012 rated it did not like it
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
Bob Mustin
Jul 04, 2011 rated it it was ok
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
Oct 02, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Aug 11, 2011 rated it liked it
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
this was an okay story about the repercussions a family suffers when their teenage son is responsible for a pornographic video going viral on the Internet.

the video showcases an underage girl doing unspeakable things with a baseball bat while addressing said teenager.

the simple act of forwarding the video to one of his friends, and that friend forwarding it to another friend causes a veritable shitstorm for the Bergamot family, including legal fees, marital troubles and just general unnecessar
Jul 25, 2011 added it
My take: I thought this would be like Therese Fowler's http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/99... 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.

Aug 03, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 22, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Oct 04, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Malena Watrous
Aug 20, 2011 rated it liked it
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
Aug 15, 2011 rated it liked it
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
Sue Seligman
Aug 04, 2011 rated it it was ok
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
Aug 08, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Jun 04, 2011 rated it really liked it
Somewhere on the journey from the comfortable upstate college town of Ithaca to the glistening moneyed world of downtown Manhattan, the Burgamots have lost their way.

Dad Richard has become consumed by his prestigious executive role at a major New York university. Mom Liz is fielding social calls and taking her young adopted daughter to sleepovers in a lush and decadent midtown hotel where “the central part of the suite looked exactly like the one Tony Soprano had once rented in a dream sequence…
Oct 06, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Oct 01, 2011 rated it liked it
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
Aug 09, 2011 rated it did not like it
Shelves: fiction, first-reads
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
Aug 30, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: kindle, fiction
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
Mike Lindgren
Aug 18, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction
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
Apr 10, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: urban-angst-ills
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
Renita D'Silva
Oct 29, 2014 rated it liked it
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.
Sheryl Sorrentino
Jun 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This hidden gem deals with the current vexing topic of kids “sexting,” that is, posting and sending unflattering sexual pictures and videos of themselves over the internet. Fifteen-year-old Jake Bergamot receives just such a video from Daisy, a 13-year-old admirer and schoolmate he meets at a party. In an unthinking moment of bravado, disgust, confusion—we are never quite sure which (indeed Jake himself is never 100% sure), he forwards the email to one of his buddies.

The rest is history as the
Jul 13, 2011 rated it it was ok
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 who
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the character of Jake 8 35 Jan 04, 2016 11:08AM  
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Helen Schulman writes fiction, nonfiction, and screenplays. She is a professor of writing and fiction chair in the MFA program at The New School. She lives in New York City with her family.

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