Tag Archives: helen schulman

Winner of THIS BEAUTIFUL LIFE Audiobook Giveaway

Congratulations to the winner of the audiobook for This Beautiful Life by Helen Schulman! Random.org selected…

Pat Burke!


Giveaway: THIS BEAUTIFUL LIFE Audiobook

Last week I promised to do another audiobook giveaway this week, and here it is… I am giving away my audiobook of This Beautiful Life by Helen Schulman, which I reviewed yesterday. It’s 7 CDs – not terribly long – and the narration is pretty good, if a little too slowly paced. I half -read and half-listened to this one.

If you’d like to win the audio (which is my Audible copy), leave me a comment here with your email address and I will pick a winner next Wednesday 2/29.



This Beautiful Life, Helen Schulman
In January, I was invited to participate in TLC Book Tour‘s book tour for Helen Schulman’s This Beautiful Life, which I had wanted to read for a while. Today is my date to publish my review; to read other reviews of this book, check out the TLC Book Tour site.

This Beautiful Life is about the Bergamot family, recent transplants to New York City from idyllic Ithaca. Richard is a high ranking officer at a fictional university (a thinly veiled Columbia) in the city, his wife is Lizzie (a SAHM), and their kids are 15 year-old Jake and 6 year-old Coco, adopted from China. The kids attend a prestigious private school, and Lizzie is adjusting to life in the city and all of its accompanying pressures. When the book opens, it’s a weekend, and Jake is attending a party in Riverdale with his friends. He meets a younger girl at the party and ends up getting physically involved with her. The next morning, she sends him a sexually explicit video. (Yes, she’s 14!). Jake forwards it to his best friend, who forwards it to two of his friends, and within hours it is all over the Internet. Jake is suspended, the girl’s parents threaten to sue, and the Bergamot family is thrown into upheaval on all fronts.

I enjoyed Schulman’s depiction of life in Manhattan and the detail with which she described the Bergamots’ interaction with each other and the other parents, school officials, etc. I also thought that her analysis of the Bergamots’ marriage, and how it was strained after the video incident, was very realistic. Lizzie and Richard are flawed, to be sure, but both sympathetic for different reasons. Richard, a self-made success, is driven to the point of ignoring what his family wants and needs. Lizzie is struggling with her identity as a stay-at-home mom who gave up her academic career to support her husband. And Jake is a typical teenager trying to find his way in a new school, unsure of where he stands and his place in the complicated ecosystem of high school. They each respond to the crisis in different ways, often careening in directions away from each other and testing their bonds as a family.

Schulman’s writing is natural and eloquent, and This Beautiful Life is a quick read. I was surprised to see a lot of mediocre reviews of this book – I enjoyed it quite a bit. My main complaint is about the ending: it seemed sudden and tacked on. Schulman cast several years into the future and gave a glimpse of where the Bergamots were at that point, which was sort of depressing and at the same time a little too skeletal for me. I wanted to know more.

I alternated listened to This Beautiful Life on audio with reading the paperback. The audio was fine, although the narration was a little too slow. I preferred the paperback because I could read it more quickly and get more into the story.

I recommend This Beautiful Life for people who enjoy contemporary domestic fiction, especially books that focus on parent-child relationships. Thanks to TLC and Harper Perennial for including me on this book tour!

A DAY AT THE BEACH by Helen Schulman

SchulmanI’ve clipped several reviews of the same book over the last few weeks, and its cover is now becoming familiar to me because of having seen it so many times: A Day at the Beach by Helen Schulman. It joins a growing class of post-9/11 novels, many set in New York, that use the tragedy of that day either overtly or as a thematic backdrop in their plots.

From Entertainment Weekly:

A 9/11 backdrop is no longer original. But using 9/11 as analogy is risky, potentially exploitative. In A Day at the Beach, an entrancing tale of 24 hours in a troubled marriage, Schulman writes about that day with journalistic detachment (doggedly matter-of-fact descriptions of brushing teeth or pouring coffee); yet she exhibits an artist’s eye for detail — likening repetitive TV news footage to the iconography of Jasper Johns, using René Magritte to illustrate a surreal burst of daylight (”it emanated from the ground instead of the sky”). As for the intriguingly ambiguous ending, the possibilities could provide material for two more novels. A-

From Blueprint: “The Steptember morning starts with such promse: Suzannah is going to take her 4-ear-old, Nikolai, to his first day of school.  Then two planes hit the World Trade Center mere blocks from their apartment… and the book follows them in her pompous choreograper husband through a tumultuous 24 hours.”

The New York Timescalls the book “finely wrought, deeply felt and mercifully funny.”

From The Washington Post: “A Day at the Beach” tackles its own concerns — the conspiracy between the oppressor and the oppressed, as well as the actual efficacy of art — with skill and intelligence. It’s a novel of ideas, in the very best sense.

Anyone read this book yet?