This Beautiful(?) Life

September 1, 2011 · 1 comment

One of the things I love most about technology when it comes to books is that I can download samples of anything I want to read before I commit to it (see: spend money). Another thing I love is that once I’ve decided I want to continue reading beyond the sample, I can have the entire book in my hands in 30 seconds or less.  For a fast, voracious reader like myself, this is a dream come true.

I read a lot of books.  Mystery, crime, romance, chick lit, historical (only about queens and such, not historical romance), biographies, literature.  I love to read. In fact, if you’re interested, over there on the right —> is a link to my GoodReads account and you can see the books I’ve read so far this year and how I rated them.  I generally don’t review many, because in my opinion, it’s absurdly hard to suggest books to people.  What I might like, you might despise, and vice versa.  In addition, I really hate reading reviews people write about books because then I start to get swayed into or away from reading the book, and I’d rather make my own decision.

That being said, this latest book I read is really bothering me, so I’m going to write about it.  I encourage you to chime in if you’ve read it.  If not, feel free to read it, but don’t blame me if you feel similar to how I do!!

This Beautiful Life by Helen Schulman

This is the plot synopsis from Amazon:

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 hectically ferrying young Coco around town.

Fifteen-year-old Jake is gratefully taken into the fold by a group of friends at Wildwood, an elite private 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 email in his in-box from an eighth-grade admirer. Attached is a sexually explicit video she has made for him. Shocked, stunned, maybe a little proud, and scared—a jumble of adolescent emotion—he forwards the video to a friend, who then for-wards it to a friend. Within hours, it’s gone viral, all over the school, the city, the world.

The ensuing scandal threatens to shatter the Bergamots’ sense of security and identity, and, ultimately, their happiness. They are a good family faced with bad choices, and how they choose to react, individually and at one another’s behest, places everything they hold dear in jeopardy.

This Beautiful Life is a devastating exploration of the blurring boundaries of privacy and the fragility of self, a clear-eyed portrait of modern life that will have readers debating their assumptions about family, morality, and the sacrifices and choices we make in the name of love.


Sounds like a really good book, right?? Honestly, it was ok.  The story above definitely happens, but I have to question “devastating exploration of the blurring boundaries of privacy and the fragility of self, a clear-eyed portrait of modern life that will have readers debating their assumptions about family, morality, and the sacrifices and choices we make in the name of love.”

Perhaps, had there been MORE I would have been debating assumptions about family and morality. Instead, I was debating my choice of purchasing this book!

There is a lot of good detail in this book.  The author is certainly able to paint the scenes well. It takes place in New York, and through her descriptions, I could really see where the characters were and how they looked.   She did a good job fleshing out the main characters of Liz, Coco, Jake & Richard, but she continuously seemed to want to go deeper and ended up leaving me hanging in a number of ways.

First, Coco is a precocious young thing who is a bit of a trouble maker, but just as we’re getting to know her, the author takes her away until the end of the book.  I would have liked to known more about her reactions to the scandal.

Liz begins following (stalking she says) an ex-boyfriend’s blog and even leaves comments under another name, but aside from keeping an eye on him through his writing, I was never very sure WHY she was following him, as it never goes any further.  Her use of her computer becomes a thing later in the book, but for all of the discussion of her being on it all the time, it never really gets explained, and I don’t really care why by the end. She seems to want to run away from her life and go back to her old life they just moved from, but while I understood, the author never seemed to go into why she was so anxious, because her details of their old life were vague at best.

Jake seems like a typical teenager caught in a sex scandal. Personally, I thought the scandal was a little over-blown, but I get it in this day and age. I understood the stress he was under, but I was at a loss at how his mom describes that he turned out later in life.

The whole family seems to fall apart, but belatedly, which bothered me. They all retreated into their own worlds, but it wasn’t until things got back to normal that they exploded.  Again, not enough detail for certain things.

The author, while very detailed in some areas, seemed to forget that we readers weren’t in her head, so any of the things she knew to be true about these characters during conception were left out of the actual book.   There were many areas of this book where I would be enjoying a page, then suddenly furrowing my brow wondering where something came from.  I kept waiting for answers, for details and they never came.

Finally, at the end of the book, she does a chapter about the girl who was the source of all of the commotion. It was from her point of view, but since we’d never really heard her side of the story prior, it seemed completely out of place.  And the last line of the book honestly had me scratching my head.

I kept waiting for the big moment. There wasn’t one. It was dull and the AHA moment never arrived.  Sadly, they made me wish the book never arrived on my bookshelf.  And made me wish I could re-write it for her.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

flutter September 1, 2011 at 3:14 pm

such bummer when that happens


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: