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This Beautiful Life

This Beautiful Life [Kindle Edition]

Helen Schulman
2.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)

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Product Description


In the digital age, shame is just one click away... This Beautiful Life is a grenade of a novel: small, explosive and primed with a fizzing fuse of a premise. --Independent on Sunday

A phenomenon... A gripping page-turner in the mould of The Slap and We Need to Talk About Kevin... Shocking, clever and thought-provoking. --Red

An accomplished and acute novel about a family facing breakdown, with some age-old themes - money, ambition, sex, love - expertly given a contemporary and grippingly convincing twist. --Daily Mail


"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

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 517 KB
  • Print Length: 245 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0062024388
  • Publisher: Atlantic Books (1 Feb 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0857896237
  • ISBN-13: 978-0857896230
  • ASIN: B006BUNPI2
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Average Customer Review: 2.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #50,600 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Opportunistic and heavy-handed 1 Feb 2012
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
"Nothing goes away now. Forgetting is over".

The Bergamots, Richard and Lizzie, are a typical modern American family: half Jewish, with a 15-year-old son of their own, Jake, and a six-year-old girl they adopted from China. Recently moved to Manhattan after Richard, a university administrator, was headhunted by a New York university, they are settling in to their new -- typically-modern American -- life, when it all goes horribly wrong, as Jake makes a catastrophic error of judgement in an incident involving a besotted 13-year-old girl and the lawyers are called in.

It's a very short novel, little more than 200 pages, and I found it unsatisfying.
The problems are twofold. Firstly, the novel is based around the ubiquity of the Internet, which makes it seem opportunistic, as if the author looked for something zeitgeisty to write about and settled on this. It couldn't have been written 10 years ago, before the rise of the Net, and will probably be irrelevant in another ten years.
Secondly, and more importantly, is the characterisation. The Bergamots are a smug pair -- both working class people made good and convinced of their own perfection, which makes them deeply unsympathetic. Richard's father had told him to treat girls honourably, with respect; Richard tells Jake to practice safe sex; he genuinely seems to think that this is the same message. Richard's father was wise but Richard and Lizzie's generation seem to have lost the knack of raising children and it is here, I suppose, that the true heart of the novel lies. "They are too accomplished. They have accumulated too much. They expect too much. They demand too much. Their love is crippling."
Even the 13-year-old `victim' does not engage the reader's sympathy.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars disappointing 8 Aug 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I approached this book with high expectations. The theme is highly topical and I also have an interest in the USA and family life there. For some reason, however, I could not warm to any of the three central characters. None seemed particualrly likeable although i had most sympathy for the son, the protagonist. It was very interesting to read about New York life and the cultural norms. The book seemed to fizzle out though and seemed rather superficial. The writer has a good style. It may just have been my failure to care much about this family.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Imperfect 25 Mar 2012
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Technically the premise of this novel - a teenage boy who thoughtlessly forwards a pornographic email to his friends - should have been gripping. In fact I trudged through the story like I was wearing wellingtons, and only got to the end because I'm a stubborn person who doesn't like Not Finishing books. The characters are unsympathetic and uninteresting; the family is like an onion: layered, but you never get beneath the outer skin. I found the way that the event was handled, and the subsequent outcry and outcome, unbelievable, and the end of the book was just a complete anticlimax. This was a disappointing read and not one I would recommend to anyone.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Well written but weak and lacking any tension 18 Mar 2012
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Modern plot that attempts to explore three things; misuse of the internet, breakdown of the family unit and the vulnerability of the very young. "The Beautiful Life" is undoubtedly well written but I'm afraid the concept didn't work for me prinicpally because of the characters; they're all far too shallow and one dimensional to carry the weight of the story. We're introduced to a "perfect American family" and then we're asked to watch what happens to that family when the son makes a mistake. Now; this isn't a small mistake it's an absolute whopper but, I can't believe for one second that his parents would have dealt with this major crisis in the way that they do, and that's the problem...unbelievable characterisation. It's possible that the author's being ironic and that the perfect family was never perfect in the first place, if she was then that irony was completely lost on me and the plot remains unexplained. Not a long book, easy to read though I wouldn't call it a page turner and there's never any real tension.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Great concept poorly worked 1 April 2012
By Christian VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
The idea is a simple one, what are the consequences of forwarding on a video that you neither made nor asked for. A video so powerful in it's imagery and content, that being associated with it can impact on the perceptions of everyone and affect your whole family with the stigma.

This should have made for a really interesting book which would be character driven and deal with consequences and the emotions that are lived and crushed by the short termism of some friendships and colleagues. But sadly it does not.

The first forty to fifty pages are a real effort to read; the mother and daughter are painted in a really difficult to empathise with way and I found myself almost ambivalent to the trials that the family had to go through. The writing is excruciating to read and frankly I almost gave up reading it twice. It is short however so I persevered.

Ultimately dissatisfying, I wouldn't recommend this book.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars This Beautiful Life by Helen Schulman 27 Feb 2012
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Richard and Liz have the perfect life. They have recently moved to Manhattan with their two children - 15 year old Jake and their adopted daughter, Coco who is 6 years old. It could be said that they are living the American Dream. Both come from working class backgrounds but through hard work and a good education, they have steadily climbed the social ladder. Richard has just started a new, well paid job and is all set to move up the career ladder even further. Liz no longer has to work and spends her time just like the other wealthy mothers she meets - taking yoga classes, shopping, lunching and generally trying to fit in with the other mothers. Life changes, however, when a 13 year old girl emails a pornographic film of herself to Jake. Without even thinking about it, Jake forwards the email to his best friend, who forwards it to his friends, who forward it to their friends and so on, and so on. In no time at all, the email has gone round the world. With this simple click of a button, Liz and Richard find that their perfect life has imploded.

This is a cautionary tale for the age of the internet. It shows the inherent dangers of the internet and the absolute necessity of stopping and thinking before sending any email. Once you have sent it you cannot take it back.

My only criticism of this book is that I did not really warm to, or feel much empathy for, the characters of Richard and Liz who remained somewhat two-dimensional throughout. As a result I did not care very much about what happened to them. The story would have had greater impact if these characters had been developed further so that we sympathised with them to a greater degree. Jake, the teenage son, is a more rounded character. He is a typically angst ridden teenager and we do feel sorry for him. A second's thoughtlessness shatters his life in a way he could never have imagined.

On the whole I enjoyed the book and I am happy to recommend it.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Average story
Sounded like a good idea - the effect of the modern techno world on a family. Inadvertently sending a sexually explicit email to the wrong person, causes a young man's family to... Read more
Published 17 months ago by Mark Shackelford
4.0 out of 5 stars Easy read
I read this book over night. I found it really interested and easy to read. If you're looking for a quick read for a train journey for example, this book is perfect.
Published 20 months ago by Natacha
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting Read
If you ar looking to buy this book i would reccommend buying on Amazon as the price on the UK highstreet is almost double the price of what Amazon are asking. Read more
Published 23 months ago by Frances Field
2.0 out of 5 stars Very Disappointing
I had high hopes for this book as I did think the idea was very interesting. However I struggled to get through this. On at least 3 occassions I almost gave up but kept going. Read more
Published on 28 May 2012 by Skittlespink
3.0 out of 5 stars Nothing original to say
This is a bit of strange book. It was relatively absorbing to read and not poorly written, and I was interested to find out how the plot progressed, but I nevertheless found it... Read more
Published on 13 May 2012 by Miss
2.0 out of 5 stars NOT A BEAUTIFUL READ
This is a difficult book to read, l found the first quarter very very heavy going, l had to keep going over
what l just read - the writing is so unimaginative whch was... Read more
Published on 13 April 2012 by Mrs. C. Swarfield
1.0 out of 5 stars just dont go there!
Turgid writing - self conscious and affected!! It actually made my eyeballs ache in places - extended overworked imagery which just didnt work in any way. Read more
Published on 8 April 2012 by cookie
3.0 out of 5 stars Not a Beautiful Book
I had heard this book reviewed and praised in the NYT Book Review podcast and it whetted my appetite. Read more
Published on 7 April 2012 by Elaine Daniels
3.0 out of 5 stars It Just Misses Being A Good Book
I really wanted to like this book more than I did. The blurb on the back gives a synopsis of a great story, a tragic accident of technology, but the boring family with their self... Read more
Published on 4 April 2012 by A. Rose
4.0 out of 5 stars 'Forgetting is over'
"This Beautiful Life" opens with a video made by a thirteen year old girl. In it she dances to Beyoncé whilst performing a sex act with a baseball bat. Read more
Published on 1 April 2012 by Eleanor
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