Day at the Beach: A Novelby Helen Schulman
Pub. Date: 04/29/2008
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
The marriage of Gerhard and Suzannah Falktopf is already in trouble when tragedy strikes on the morning of September 11, 2001. As a quintessential downtown art couple -- he a famous choreographer, she his muse and principal dancer and now the mother of their four-year-old son -- the strains in their marriage have been kept at bay by the glamorous velocity of their lives.
Though they escape harm when the planes crash into the towers, husband and wife are suddenly cast into an unpredictable psychological space that allows their buried selves, and their sharp differences, to rise to the surface. After packing up the car, and with their gorgeous young nanny in tow, they head for the safety of the Hamptons. But despite their soft landing in this cocoon of privilege, the unleashed demons will push them to their psychic limits -- so much so that by the next morning they will hardly recognize each other.
Taking place over a manic twenty-four hours, A Day at the Beach is a fast-paced, razor-sharp story whose personal tragedy contains sparks of dark humor about American life pre- and post-9/11. It is a story that speaks to our memories of that day, which, for all of us in so many different ways, meant the end of a world and the birth of something new. Or so it seemed . . .
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I thought the book started out promising, but by the middle,it just dragged on and on for me. I found the characters rather blah, even introducing the gal and baby didn't help this one. Glad I got this one from the library. By the end, I didn't really care about their lives anymore and I thought the ending was stupid.
This is a fast, crackling (no pun intended) read about the effects of 9/11/01 on one Manhattan family on the day of the tragedy. I think that the author captures the essence, the horror and the uncertainty of that day perfectly, and her main characters are very well drawn. The problem is that Schulman tries to pack too many messages, ancillary characters and plot contrivances into one 24-hour period, but these flaws are not necessarily fatal to one's enjoyment of the novel.