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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 ›
Here's the gist:
- I enjoyed Franzen's evocative and painterly writing.
- I enjoyed the pop culture references which helped me feel like this story was truly of today's world, that these characters could actually be real.
- I didn't quite understand the passages that were supposed to be written as autobiography by the Patty character. Patty's autobiographical voice didn't seem any different from Franzen's voice, so that device didn't work for me.
- I wish the characters had been a bit more sympathetic throughout the story.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Jonathan Franzen belongsto the new generation of the best American novelists, replacing Mailer, Vidal, Wolf. A great social critic writing smoothly and beautifullyPublished 4 days ago by Stephan Guerin
What a disfunct family, I can't imagine why he, Fraczen, thought we all want to hear and read about this familyPublished 11 days ago by Betty Gardner
Def an interesting read though he could have gotten to the point a whole lot sooner. It's a good story'Published 16 days ago by Darlene Jorif
I loved the Corrections, but Freedom is even better. It's been a while since I've finished a book and been so sad to let go of the characters. A must read.Published 1 month ago by B. Douglas
I struggled for months to advance with this book not wanting to abandon it. I read other books simultaneously and finished them with ease, while this book felt more like a chore. Read morePublished 1 month ago by tgkngolf
Very depressing. Not a book to read when you need uplifting. I had know idea what it was about so I didn't know what to expect. Read morePublished 1 month ago by cheryl seals
My wife hated it and did not finish. I read the whole thing and really got to hate the protagonist but could see how well meaning causes can be made futile. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Harry Davis