Monday, September 5, 2011

This Beautiful Life by Helen Schulman

The depth of the writing is this book is amazing. The layers are slowly peeled back to reveal the reality of one family's modern life and the fragility that it is built on. One error, one mistake and like dominoes the life so painstakingly crafted, topples, splinters, shatters leaving what could only be described as hollow survivors.
The Bergamots are the family that this story revolves around, they are its axis, new to New York, father Richard is a high flyer at prestigious University, Mum Liz is a stay at home busily propelling the lives of her children Jake and Coco and secretly consumed with the anxiety that she is not good enough, that some how she just doesn`t  fit in and of course she desperately wants to. Busy, rushing, enveloped in superficiality, the family manages to loose touch emotionally until disaster strikes and an email forward by Jake brings unimaginable consequences to all involved. We learn via the Bergamots that with today's social media there is no such thing as confidentiality. We also learn that at the simple touch of a button, all we hold dear, can be gone in an instant.
I particularly liked the way that the author so finely etched her characters and how realistically she made them, warts and all. Her descriptions of New York and its environs drew you in, so that you felt as if you were there and the people and places minor or not in this book resonated. I also felt that she built the most delicious tension, it was suttle and as it grew in momentum, I couldn't put the book down. A story that has consequences is not always sympathetic but this book was unique in that the author didn`t loose perspective but neither did she trample anyone into the ground and she was fair and even handed with her characters and while conveying that different characters would feel differently about situations, responsibility and consequences and that so ultimately would the readers, she kept it human and therefore real.
A thought provoking read, that is so relevant in today's minefield of social media, it will cause all who read it to hopefully think before they type, text or forward. I very much look forward to Helen Schulman`s next book.

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