Friday, February 17, 2012

This Beautiful Life - Helen Schulman (Audio)

In choosing a book for Books, Babes and Bordeaux for February, we had two goals:  a discussable topic, and short in length.  We have several members with babies, and they are finding it challenging to get through anything longer than a couple hundred pages.  One of our members came up with this:  the negative consequences of sexting, and 240 pages (6 discs).  Bingo.


Synopsis:  The Bergamots are living the good life.  Richard is the golden guy, a superstar executive at a large university, and his wife is an attractive, hip stay-at-home mom.  They recently moved their family, 15 year- old Jake and 5 year-old Coco (who they adopted from China) from rural Ithica NY to New York City for Richard's job.  Their days are spent rubbing elbows with the affluent, the botoxed, and the martinied.  


But when Jake attends an unsupervised party one night at a (rich) 13 year-old girl's house, Jake becomes the object of this misguided girl's attention.  She makes an explicit video showing him that she isn't too young for him, sends it to him, and with the click of the forward button, the video becomes viral.  And the Bergamots' life implodes, with far-reaching implications.


My thoughts:  The story starts out engaging and in some ways familiar.  The busy dad, the chauffeur mom, the private school, the over-indulgent birthday parties of the prosperous.  The oldest son who can do no wrong, and the slightly spoiled younger daughter.  


Even the graphic sex video.  If you have teenagers, I don't need to tell you that this stuff happens.  The description of said video turned a few of my hairs white, but I've a number of friends whose sons have received things like this, or at least the picture version.  Cell phones are the perfect tool for the ill-behaved passive-aggressive.  


I began to have issues, however, with the implications of the video on the Bergamots' life.  Don't get me wrong.  I think that there were many victims in this story, and it was all stomach-turning.  I won't go into the details, but this family completely falls apart.  I didn't like these people, I thought they were all completely detached from reality and spoiled rotten, all of them.  Some, who shall remain nameless here, had serious problems that were uncovered, if you will, because of the difficulties brought on by the video.  I finished the last half hour of the story disgusted by it all, and not really caring much about any of the characters.


It WILL offer some good discussion for our book club though.  And, in its own misguided way, is a cautionary tale.  I did have a discussion with my kids about the dangers of forwarding inappropriate pictures and videos (they were both giving me their best gross-out faces). So there is that.


A word about the audio production:  Our narrator Hillary Huber did an excellent job of channeling the self-absorbed.  I've never heard her before, probably because she seems to have done quite a bit of work on a vampire romance series, which is not something I would read.  But I would listen to her again.  She was easy on the ears, and probably the main reason why I was able to get through this book.


2 out of 5 stars     









16 comments:

bermudaonion said...

I've listened to a couple books narrated by Huber and think she does a great job with voices.

Sorry this book fell apart for you. I'm sad to say that family sounds like some I've known. A great book about sexting is Exposure by Therese Fowler.

Peppermint Ph.D. said...

I don't think the social media generation realizes just how powerful of a tool they have in their hands. Even an off remark posted via Facebook from young teacher to young student can be grounds for dismissal and even ruin of that person's personal life/family (this actually happened to some people we know). I'm gonna skip this one though...I'm already paranoid :/

JoAnn said...

I can see how this would lead to an excellent discussion, but I'm going to skip it...

Jenny said...

Oh 2 out of 5, wow. I could see how the characters were so unlikable though! I love this sentence that you wrote: "Cell phones are the perfect tool for the ill-behaved passive-aggressive." Haha, so true.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

This sounds awful! (I have also seen other reviews saying basically the same)

Jackie Bailey said...

I often have problems with spoilt characters too. I prefer mine to suffer!

Zibilee said...

Oh, I have no idea where to start with this one. I was just so uncomfortable listening to this, and each character made me feel slimy with all their self absorption. The way that the mother reacts to the video was also gross. It was just too much for me, and I am eager to see what kind of discussion this one brings out. I think you did a great job with this review. I could have never been this objective!

caite said...

2 stars? oh, put this on the do not bother list. I can put up with a lot, but self absorbed..forget it.

Heather @ Book Addiction said...

I agree with pretty much everything you've said here. I haven't even started my review because I don't know quite how to say what I want to say... but I HATED all of the characters and I just felt intense sympathy for the girl... it was just too depressing for words, in fact. And I don't even have any teenagers!!

Jenners said...

Don't think I'll go for this one … but I'll keep the narrator in mind.

Beth(bookaholicmom) said...

I think this is one I will take a pass on too. Good to know the narrator is a good one though!

Amy said...

I have seen some so-so reviews for this book and wondered what the real problems were. I appreciate your honesty, Sandy. This family sounds quite dysfunctional with major issues and characters that are not easy to relate too.

This book doesn't appeal to me and I think if I want to read about this subject I'd prefer Exposure by Theresa Fowler

Darlene said...

I think I was intrigued by this book more than you. While I agree the characters weren't likeable I thinkthatt their family life shaped them in some ways. I do think this book would make for some pretty good discussions though with the teenage angle and the sexting as well as the marriage angle. I wonder if it made a difference because I read it. Sometimes I find audios bring a book much more alive than printed copy.

Julie P. said...

Not sure I'd like this one either...

Melissa said...

I love shorter books these days, but I think I'll just skip this one!

Kathleen said...

I think it is a great premise but it sounds like the author failed in the execution of it. This would make for a lively book club discussion though.