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3.5 out of 5 stars15
3.5 out of 5 stars
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I've read McInerney's Brightness Falls twice, and greatly enjoyed its portrayal of a specific historical event (the stock market crash of 1987) and its impact on Russell and Corrine, a stylish, likeable but flawed couple, and their friends and life in Manhattan. In this book, he places them in the path of an even bigger event, and traces out their trajectories as their lives are shattered and remodelled in the wake of September 11. He brings back a few other characters from the earlier book, but also introduces some new ones - retired investment banker Luke, his socialite wife Sasha and their unstable teenaged daughter Ashley.

It's not hard to guess what the role of Luke is going to turn out to be as he stumbles up West Broadway, away from the nightmare of ash, smoke and death, and encounters Corrine, who offers him "a bottle of Evian" (even in moments of crisis, McInerney's knack for product placement doesn't falter). And, from that point onwards, the event fades into the background as we concentrate on their relationship. On the whole, this is probably a wise move, since writing more directly about the cataclysm and its aftermath is probably too challenging to pull off convincingly.

And McInerney deftly traces out the themes of desire, betrayal, duty and fidelity in a way that's thoroughly engrossing, particularly when he gives us Corrine's point of view. Only at the very end does he bring the story full circle with an elegaic connection between the way in which this all started, and the way it ends.
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on 29 October 2009
Very often a book comes along which you can't put down; more rarely is it the case where you become bitterly disappointed when a book finishes, and that's how I felt at the conclusion of Jay McInerney's 'The Good Life'.

'The Good Life' is nominally a sequel to 'Brightness Falls' but works equally well as a standalone book. Readers of 'Brightness Falls' will not feel like McInerney is reintroducing the nuances of characters excessively while first-time readers will feel like they know the key characters within just a few pages.

The key theme of this book is the degradation of relationships as people move into middle age. For anyone who's been through relationship counselling or ultimately separation and divorce the decriptions of widening distance in a relationship will be all too familiar. The whole thing is framed by the loss of friends in the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the guilt - towards those they have lost, their spouses and their kids - felt by Corrinne Calloway and Luke McGavock as they begin a tentative affair among the rubble and devastation of the World Trade Center.

Like most books set in Manhattan, the city itself and its restaurants, bars and overlapping societal groupings feature large, almost as another character in the dialogue. Whilst the tragedy of 9/11 looms over the story overall, this shouldn't be regarded as just another of the many books documenting the impact on individuals and families of that tragic day.

Like all McInerney novels, this is essential.
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on 12 July 2013
I am always slightly sceptical about sequels and follow-up novels as I often feel let down by the second outing. 'Brightness Falls' blew me away with its effortless narrative and witty prose, and thankfully 'The Good Life' had the same effect.

It was interesting to see how McInerney used the 9/11 disaster to show the change in his two main characters, and their new, more grown-up approach to life in New York City. The partying and professional aspirations written about in 'Brightness Falls' are now replaced by parenthood and financial struggle.

For me, it was hard to deal with the introduction of Luke McGavock and the effect he had on Corrine. The story was less focused on Russell Calloway - a favourite character of mine - and more concerned with infidelity and the affair between Corrine and Luke.

However, this was still an extremely compelling read and I had no idea how McInerney would end it. The final chapter had me so gripped, my face so close to the pages, that I could almost smell Luke's aftershave.

This is another wonderful McInerney novel, and another must-read.
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on 7 April 2006
This is a wonderful sequel to Brightness Falls. It gives insight into how New Yorkers reacted to 9/11, as well as raising the larger question as to how life should be lived. The characters are beautifully drawn and observed, and the writing seemingly effortless. I thoroughly recommend this novel. Fans will not be disappointed and new readers will be enthralled.
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on 6 November 2008
After `Brightness Falls' (I read it years ago and liked it), `The Good Life' is a sort of sequel for some of the characters previously depicted: we find Russell and Corrine Callaway, Luke and Sasha McGavock and their respective families.

New York's Upper East Side wealthy society is the main background. Then the 9/11 tragedy strikes and life changes. Feeling shocked -they both lose a friend in the wreckage-, lost and adrift like everybody else, Luke and Corrine meet by chance at Ground Zero, where they are both helping out. Before 9/11, they both had unresolved issues at home, and now, incredibility ensues for them as they slowly but inexorably fall in love amidst the ruins. They try to deal with the emotional turmoil and tormented longing they both feel. This book is primarily the story of their escalating love and the conflicts that this generates in their mind and soul, the concern for their family a major issue.

Well, I believe that the main concept of this book is good but it still failed to engage me in full. Overly descriptive at times, the reading was often dragging. In short, may I say it, a bit boring. No, not up to (my) standard. My true vote would be 2 and ½ stars, but I concede the other half as I have enjoyed other books by Mr. McInerney and have appreciated him as a writer, especially where characterization is concerned.
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on 30 June 2009
Domestic squabbles involving bored, betrayed and battered well-off middle-aged Manhattanites set against the September 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade center in New York. The author does not try to recreate the devastating attack or the immediate aftermath and the damage and horror is expressed more in terms of its effect on the characters, their fear for the future and how they can recreate their shattered lives. Since most of their lives were already emotionally shattered the attacks serve to provide them with an excuse to start again. The result is a series of doomed affairs and attempts to rebuild bridges to their children and other relatives.
The book is worth reading and although it has some dramatic and melodramatic scenes, the overall tone is rather subdued. Much of the ending even takes place far from New York, in Tennessee, although this part comes over as rather trite.
Overall, the book is like one of those Woody Allen films or the Seinfeld TV show in which grown adults living in New York act like silly adolescents and you wonder if they will ever grow up. If you have read McInerney's most famous books "Brightness Falls" (in which some of the characters of The Good Life appear) or Bright Lights, Big City you'll know what I mean.
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on 14 September 2011
Ah! Finally! A good book! Don't worry: I've had it stuffed and mounted on my wall. Beautiful, simply-structured, sparsely written account of New York couples struggling with the real and manufactured emotions after 9/11. Effortless and readable. And a perfect ending. Funny, sad, perfect.
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on 21 March 2006
In this tale of love and infidelity in the aftermath of 9/11, fashionable Manhattanites Corrine Calloway and Luke McGavock embark on an adulterous affair and are forced to confront painful questions of familial responsibility, personal fulfilment and the need for social affirmation.
Told with a characteristic light touch, in prose that is funny, poignant and always utterly compelling, the novel poses the ultimate question: In the shadow of death, what is the essence of the good life?
This weighty topic is something of a departure for McInerney, who is best known for his mordant social satire of the rich and famous. But he carries off the task with extraordinary aplomb. While his eye for ironic detail is as keen as ever, he proves that he has matured to a storyteller of the highest order, capable of conveying the magnificence, tragedy and absurdity of the human condition. A masterpiece.
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on 23 July 2013
I couldn't get the appraisal of another review out of my head comparing this to mills and boon. It is quite readable but comes across as nothing more than a romance novel with literary pretensions. The descriptions of sex are still cringeworthy.
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on 13 March 2006
I couldn't put this book down. Very well-written; the characters, with all their imperfections - many of which I could relate to - come to life. In short, I loved it. It falls short of 5 stars simply because the plot stops flowing smoothly in the last third of the novel and because ... I didn't feel satisfied when I finished it. Or perhaps that's just because I didn't want the book to end?
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