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Freedom: A Novel (Oprah's Book Club) Paperback – Bargain Price, September 27, 2011
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Top Customer Reviews
I read and enjoyed The Corrections, so was looking forward to seeing what Franzen had been up to for the past 10 years. What he's been up to is, essentially, rewriting The Corrections, but extracting all the humor that leavened the misanthropic bleakness of his vision in the earlier work. Once again we're presented with an outwardly "perfect" nuclear Midwestern family that secretly consists of neurotic hysterics with low self-esteem who ultimately find themselves mired in infidelity and morally dubious business dealings. Once again the focus is on generational conflict, and the "sins of the fathers" revisited in the lives of the children.
Besides the lack of originality, the problem, in essence, is this time out I don't believe a single, solitary word of it. I don't believe in liberal middle-class parents who'd let their teenage son move in with their obnoxious Republican neighbors. I don't believe in a talented college athlete who'd let herself be hoodwinked for years by a ditzy, obsessive fan. I don't believe in a committed environmentalist who'd sign off on strip mining vast tracts of virgin forest in the name of reclaiming those tracts many years afterwards for a single-species preserve. I don't believe in a 19-year-old arms dealer making procurement purchases in Paraguay. I don't believe in a couple who remain married, but utterly incommunicado, for 6 years. I don't believe in a 47-year-old man with no religious convictions who is trying beer for the very first time, and is prone to bursting into tears on the least provocation. And that's just for starters.Read more ›
Yet, this saga ominously hits a brick wall when it becomes enmeshed with any number of environomental, social and political issues (incluing mining and overpopulation) that seem to go on for far too long and which consume an excessive amount of time and space. Very "preachy", didactic and repetitive if you will.
As a result, we are confronted with a lengthy novel that is only partially rewarding. It is constucted on cycles of excitement and tedium which make for an erratic reading experience. You really have to invest a good deal of time and effort searching for the literary nuggets that make the effort worthwhile in the end.
This is a big, rambling tale of modern Americans in their modern lives, people who reminded me of real people, a plot which kept me turning the pages of this compulsively readable, mostly entertaining novel. The tone is slightly condescending, as the quote above my review would suggest, mostly cynical, and ultimately hopeful by the end of the story, when his battered, bruised and bruising characters emerge from the wreckage of their lives, and bravely carry on.
In many ways this novel is similar to his previous work, The Corrections. I remember enjoying that novel a few years back, although I could not understand why the critics raved about it. Franzen proves yet again that he is a very good writer, building a complicated but workable plot, creating characters who are real, complex and often disappointing, showing us his American self-portrait in 2010. He reaches for a big theme, as the title implies, but he doesn't quite achieve his goal of demontrating the illusory nature of our freedom (or alternatively that all this freedom is killing us). Like Sophocles, Franzen seems to take a dim view of freedom. I probably should not compare Franzen to Sophocles, or other great writers, past or present. He has a genuine voice, a straightforward style, but he does not possess lyrical abilities, nor great thematic breadth.Read more ›
For the first 381 pages, though, the only thing I liked was that I was coming closer to either being finished with this book or to what I thought had to be an incredibly good ending to justify the incredibly good reviews. The characters were immature, lacked perspective and were in many ways unconvincing to me. Walter was obsessed with overpopulation issues but directed most of his anger at the Catholic church for this problem and wanted, it seemed, to discourage people from having any children. We humans, he makes very clear, are a "cancer on the planet". I certainly agree the overpopulation is a problem and only growing in scope, but I had a difficult time believing a 50-year old who had supposedly spent so much time "thinking" about the issue was so unwilling to do what it takes to actually make a difference in solving the problem. Instead of advocating policies that might actually work, such as trying to reduce the number of unplanned pregnancies in the world, he starts a non-profit to try to encourage 19-year-olds (who will certainly *never* change their minds!) to never have children. Perhaps a 30-year old would be convincing in this role, but not a 50-year old. As a result, it seems Franzen is not trying to make a policy argument but rather using the issue to represent Walter's anger with people in general.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I happened across the book, drawn I suspect by "St. Paul" in a description. It is, in my mind, at the top of 'wonderful books I've read'. Read morePublished 4 days ago by A Reader
I like books about relationships, and this book has that. Almost only that. I think I would have enjoyed the book more (Audible) had I not kept losing my place. Read morePublished 5 days ago by triplesss
Love and resolution in the end. The author may have loved them all along. I didn't. Loathed and sometimes labored to read about them all before the final pages. Read morePublished 15 days ago by Elliot Green
"Mistakes were made" is the title of a lengthy autobiographical insert in Jonathan Franzen's even lengthier 2010 novel, "Freedom". Read morePublished 17 days ago by Robin Friedman
It took me a long time to read it....there are some slower paced passages,-- but once I got into it, I really enjoyed it. Read morePublished 21 days ago by lightshow