Customer Review

29 of 34 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars It just goes on and on and on and on..., September 25, 2010
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This review is from: Freedom (Hardcover)
Jonathan Frantzen is unquestionably an excellent writer. This book, however, suffers from a critical lack of a red pen as well as a surplus of polemic politcobabble. I downloaded it because it seemed to be the 'must-read' book of the season, and I hacked my way through it over the course of two weeks, reading a book or two in between when the density overtook me. Overall, I was left with the impression of a wall of words in which not much happened.

The book is centered on Walter and Patty, two stereotypical middle-class yups with a set of baggage to carry around. Walter is set up as a stereotypical Good Guy who we don't actually know much about until about mid-novel. Patty is The Bored Housewife who gave up her ambition to correct the mistakes her own parents made. Their two kids, Joey and Jessica, of course come with a set of luggage themselves, and are drawn to apparently personify the Youth of Today. Finally, we have Richard, Walter's best friend, a musician who again is a cardboard cutout of a burned-out rocker.

The problem with the book is that none of these characters are particularly interesting. In the attempt to give us a broad characterization of different generations, the actual characters are lost. There's an awful lot of whining and rending of shirts going on here, with the sound and fury signifying nothing. Most of these folks don't change, and the two who do make their transformations in either a simply unrealistic or overly dull manner. Meanwhile, the novel is overlaid with all the extreme political views of the day that represent only the fringes of both ends of the political spectrum.

I will say this though: Frantzen got the bit about modern-day rage completely right. And there is a pretty solid insight in here about what lies beneath the outer veneer of human beings, which can only be revealed by listening carefully to another perspective. Unfortunately the good stuff was buried in a nearly-impenetrable forest of verbiage.
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