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This Beautiful Life: A Novel | [Helen Schulman]

This Beautiful Life: A Novel

When the Bergamots move from comfortable suburban Ithaca to New York City, they’re not sure how well they will adapt—or what to make of the strange new world of the well-to-do Upper West Side. But soon 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 hectically ferrying six-year-old Coco around town.
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Publisher's Summary

When the Bergamots move from comfortable suburban Ithaca to New York City, they’re not sure how well they will adapt—or what to make of the strange new world of the well-to-do Upper West Side. But soon 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 hectically ferrying six-year-old Coco around town. Fifteen-year-old Jake is graciously taken in by a group of friends at Wildwood, an elite private day school.

But the upper-class cocoon in which they have enveloped themselves is ripped apart when Jake wakes up one morning after an unchaperoned party and finds an e-mail waiting in his inbox from an eighth-grade admirer. Attached is a sexually explicit video she has made for him. Shocked, stunned, maybe a little proud, scared—a jumble of adolescent emotion—he forwards the video to a friend, who then forwards it to a friend, and the video goes viral. Within hours, it’s not only all over the school but all over the city—and all over the Internet.

In the aftermath, Jake is suspended from school, Liz’s social standing among the Wildwood moms is challenged, and Richard’s job is at risk. Good people faced with bad choices, they decide to fight back. But how? Do they use the very weapons wielded against them—the media and the law? And at what moral and professional cost? How they choose to react, individually and at one another’s behest, places everything they hold dear in jeopardy; they are completely caught off guard by the ramifications of their actions, not only to their marriage, their daughter, their place in the community, but to Jake—the very one they have set out to protect.

©2011 Helen Schulman (P)2011 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

What the Critics Say

“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, New York Times best-selling author of Eat, Pray, Love)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.1 (66 )
5 star
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3.2 (45 )
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Story
3.5 (45 )
5 star
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Performance
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  •  
    SomervilleWhereElse Somerville, MA 08-24-11
    SomervilleWhereElse Somerville, MA 08-24-11 Member Since 2007
    HELPFUL VOTES
    201
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    49
    43
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    FOLLOWING
    39
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    Overall
    "So so"

    From the paper reviews of this book, I expected something much better. It was an ordinary story of an upper middle class family's stressful experience and its consequences. The writing was unexceptional and narration was about the same. I wouldn't recommend it to anyone, although if you were stuck listening to it, for some reason, it wouldn't be the worst thing in the world.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Lana Edmonton, AB, Canada 03-08-12
    Lana Edmonton, AB, Canada 03-08-12
    HELPFUL VOTES
    6
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    16
    6
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
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    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "A short story, not a novel"
    Would you try another book from Helen Schulman and/or Hillary Huber?

    The narrator is superb and the story is compelling--but then it stops short. Right when things become interesting and complicated, the author employs a cheap narrative trick and the novel just ends. This results in it feeling like a short story (written by a writer with a deadline) instead of a rich novel. I was really dissapointed as the story was just fantastic and the characters layered.


    Would you ever listen to anything by Helen Schulman again?

    Yes.


    Was This Beautiful Life worth the listening time?

    Yes, but it stopped short.


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jessica Portland, OR, United States 02-14-13
    Jessica Portland, OR, United States 02-14-13
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    1
    1
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Bad accent"
    How could the performance have been better?

    I spent much of the first part trying to picture how to spell the name of the father figure in the novel. I got a laugh when the reviews I dug up told me it's "Richard." The narrator had me thinking it was some exotic international name "Reeetch - are"
    Likewise with "Littsie" (aka Liz) and "EEEt-ack-uh" (Ithaca).

    I've never been so distracted by the narration. It's horrible...


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    B. Lilker New York city 11-22-11
    B. Lilker New York city 11-22-11 Member Since 2009
    HELPFUL VOTES
    2
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    2
    2
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    0
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    Story
    "An OK Story for NYers."

    If you are raising your children in NYC's Upper East or West side you may relate to this book even though the storyline is a bit of a stretch.

    1 of 3 people found this review helpful
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